Do not rent Dan in Real Life, quite possibly the most false and cloying movie of last year…it’s about the kind of family that plays charades together at a big beach house, but whose matriarch is still casually cruel and thoughtless enough to start the dryer up (with sneakers) just as her son tries to get some sleep in the laundry room. Oh, and there’s a dead mom character…eeesh, isn’t there always? Worst of all, it is not funny, not touching, not smart and not believable. The main question is “What the hell was Juliette Binoche thinking?” (Perhaps: “Money, I need money.”)
Anyway, I have a couple of new reviews up at http://www.blurt-online.com, the avant pop of Au (pronounced sort of like “hey you”) and the freaky classico-folk of Fern Knight.
Pitched somewhere between the arty campfire songs of Animal Collective, the whole-grain, free-jazz clap-alongs of Akron/Family, and the choral ephemeries of Grizzly Bear, Luke Wyland's Au plays feel-good experimentalia. It is joyful, explosive and improvisatory, altogether more communal than exclusionary. First single, "rr vs. d" starts in a rumble of piano notes, a flurry of handclaps, a syncopated, chorale-in-unison island lullaby. "Get it, one, two, three" sings Wyland, ushering in a frantic march of brass, bells and melodica, as crazily celebratory as a circus parade. "All My Friends", Verbs' biggest production, gathers 22 singers into a PDX Ecstatic Singers chorus. The track filters sun through hazy layers of tone, its slow-sung lyrics and piano rolls curling like steam around hand-clapped, xylophone plunked rhythms. Towards the end, Wyland cuts back to just himself in "Sleep," a slow-bowed, whispery coda to one of this year's most joyful experiments.
Standout tracks: "rr vs. d," "All My Friends" JENNIFER KELLY
Cellist-singer-songwriter Margie Wienk's third album as Fern Knight has the same rich baroque drone, the same rupturing 1960s psychedelia as Music For Witches and Alchemists. This time, however, she's got a fully-formed band with Jim Ayre of Flying V picking up the acid leads (from Greg Weeks of Espers on the previous album), James Blackshaw back on renaissance harp and electric bass and James Wolf on achingly pretty, sad violin. Eerie cymbal rolls and angelic runs of harp lend drama to "Silver Fox," a tale of casual cruelties and chains encircling the neck. "Sundew" unfolds languorously, breezy jazz-tinged guitar and bass pulsing through the throb of cello. Wienk sings so sweetly that you might not catch the threat and intelligence of post-classical "Magpie Suite," a three-part suite that starts with a Milton quote and ends in giddy reels and dizzy harmonies. Fern Knight is organically gorgeous, but never oversweet.
Standout tracks: "Silver Fox," "Magpie Suite: Part II" JENNIFER KELLY
Here’s Margie and crew playing “Magpie Suite” last month: