I’ve Got a Part You Will Kill in La La Land

la-la-land-mia

“Betty, I’ve got a part…you will kill,” casting director Linney James (Rita Taggart) tells naive ingenue Betty Elms (Naomi Watts) in David Lynch’s self-described “love story in the city of dreams”, the seminal classic, Mulholland Drive.

Fifteen years later, Damien Chazelle has delivered the greatest “love story in the city of dreams” since Mulholland Drive with his swooning, joyous and melancholy musical La La Land…and he’s left the greatest part for us. In his story, we get to play the audience. And, boy, in this year of pop cultural celebrity deaths that has 1980’s children in nostalgia tinted tears and a political wasteland that hath wroth His Orange Emperor, man…we are so PERFECT for this part! We are gonna kill it! And we are going to love La La Land with its toe-tapping musical themes and heart-ringing ballads forever echoing in our collective unconscious to be passed down from generation to generation like our communal love for flickering wonders in the dark and dreams writ large on a silver screen. It’s possibly the defining fluff piece of our times, and it is beautiful.

Like Mulholland Drive, La La Land weaves an archetypal tapestry of dreamers falling in love and getting swept up in the pulse and vibrations of Los Angeles. Here we have struggling actress Mia (almond-eyed, red-haired, fair-skinned, cute-as-a-button and sassy as all get-out Emma Stone in the type of role you wonder if a young actress could ever out-shine) and struggling jazz musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling at the top of his Gos Game) breaking out into song (hell, and why shouldn’t they?) and literally dancing on air (a feeling anybody who has fallen in love can relate to). Like Lynch’s film, there are moments where you will drift away into the most rapturous of reveries (the opening “drivers-stuck-on-the-LA-freeway-breaking-out-into-song” bit perfectly disembodied, transportive and tone-setting), fall in love, laugh, perhaps cry, and wonder along with our big-eyed dreamers.

Where Chazelle takes the film from beautiful fluff to art is his insistence on not resting on the musical norms while at the same time exploiting them for all their worth. Each wondrously choreographed dance number is breathtakingly dreamlike, both eschewing what we expect (and I normally loathe) in musicals while adhering to the genre’s most universal and transportive tropes. Chazelle employes lyricists who tell the story through the songs, not just put on a show…while the set designers, costumers and choreographers put on one hell of a show.   Continue reading

The L’s Have It

It’s official, when it comes to the music on my iPhone, “L” is the best letter of the alphabet.

The Letter L

Not only do three of my favorite songs EVER (the Goodfella‘s inspiring Derek & the Dominos version of “Layla”, Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” and The Eagles “Lyin’ Eyes”) begin with the letter “L”, but my “L’s” are also a completely stress-reducing mix of weirdly juxtaposed but oddly complimentary tracks that make any traffic jam, jam.  It also makes me realize I am very, very tragically white.

Here’s the complete song list: Continue reading

Your Spin: Uber Wagner

Wagner Quote

It’s that time again to put The Spin your hands!  The topic this round: The Greatest Piece of Richard Wagner Music.

As Sam Juliano from Wonders in the Dark so eloquently mused, “Richard Wagner was a racist, an anti-Semite and a bigamist, yet he wrote some of the most extraordinarily beautiful music in the history of Western civilization.”  And it was Sam’s chatter on the facebook that spurred this post.

It got me wondering, not only about all that great music (that lends itself so eerily well to cinema) but also, “What the hell was going on in Wagner’s head?”  His music has spawned men like Adolph Hitler to score their epic and vile plans for world domination, while it left others rapt and spellbound with fevered dreams of those pearly gates.  What did Wagner see when he composed?  What inspired him?  And what lead him to spew hate while also birthing so much aural beauty, bequeathing to us an unrivaled output of operatic art that will last as long as human beings have ears to listen to his work.  There’s something both ominous and serene about his best pieces, moods that swoon to an emotional climax before bringing the listener back down from heaven (or up from hell) to solid ground where the world lays itself out before us in all its mysterious glory.  His is the stuff of both the calm and the storm, the worldly and otherworldly.

But back to the music.  I’ve left out his most recognizable pieces to the layman…The Lohengrin Bridal March  – yes, the wedding march used at almost every wedding – and Ride of the Valkyries – used so devilishly in D. W. Griffin’s hate mongering Birth of a Nation and overused since then to death.  And, yes, I’m trying to bias the vote by putting my pick at the top.  But without further adieu…the nominees: Continue reading

If It Was Never New and It Never Gets Old Then It’s a Coen Brothers Film

Inside Llewyn Davis - Oscar Isaac and Cat

The milieu of Inside Llewyn Davis wraps around the Coen Brothers and their audience like a cozy sweater in the dead of winter.  Watching it is akin to sitting down with an old friend you haven’t seen for years during the holidays, perhaps with hot tea or coffee cupped in your chapped hands, a fireplace hopefully roaring nearby, and listening to them tell a story…maybe one you’ve heard before, maybe one that seems new only to reveal the classic themes of your lives, and you’re held wrapt, comfortable, and full of bittersweet feelings.

The film, which chronicles the ups and – well, let’s be honest – primarily downs of gallows humor-laden folk singer Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac, perfectly melancholy and full of piss and heartache), is bathed in the soft muted glows and dark greys of wintertime and 1960’s New York City, strung up wall to wall with amazing folk tunes, and filled to the brim with opportunities and love lost.  The Coens, who previously found their hearts tied to music with their blue-grass fueled Southern-fried odyssey O’ Brother Where Art Thou? have never had their love of music tied more closely to their themes – the film (like all of their best films, lest we forget the homespun folksy wisdom of Fargo) is itself a kind of folk song.  There are hints of an odyssey here, too, as Llewyn flounders about from place to place struck with bad luck, bad timing and a perpetual failing when it comes to life’s big decisions, and he finds a bit of a kindred animal spirit in a series of cats who cross his path on their own odysseys through life, and one of the felines is not coincidently named Ulysses. Continue reading

Cat Fight: Fiona Apple and Brandi Carlile

The sailors say, “Brandi, you’re a fine girl…”

Fiona! Don’t look away!

It seems like just the other night I was telling a friend, “I’m really not that BIG of a music guy.”  Yet here I am writing about music again because in my head Fiona Apple and Brandi Carlile are having a huge Seinfeldian cat fight.  MEOW.

Both ladies seem to have been conceived in the womb with music in their heads and are known for their startlingly unique vocal abilities, and both have new albums (their fourths) that dropped this June, but that’s about where the similarities end. 

Though she’s roughly my age, it seems like Fiona Apple has been around forever and still to this day is the epitome of big-city, sad-eyed, late 1990’s grrrrrl angst.  It’s as if when she was a naif she decided to respond to the Grunge movement of the early 1990’s by scatting and writing the most densely complex lyrics only to be sung as if Nabokov’s Lolita was crooning old standards.  She defies categorization, and she’s probably one of the only artists working today who can still be considered “alternative”….ah…remember alternative music?  Meanwhile it’s hard to believe Brandi Carlile (not much younger than Apple) is delivering her fourth studio album as well, as she still sounds like a breath of fresh air coming out of nowhere (the wilds of Alaska I’m told) and is the epitome of small-town, folksy-countrified-rock that brings to mind flannel shirts before they were grunge, wading in cool creeks, skipping rocks and the 1970’s.  Fiona Apple is a tempestuous storm raging atop the surface of the sea while Brandi Carlile is still waters running deep. Continue reading

The Soundtracks of Our Lives

People don’t listen to music the same way they used to.  Everything is downloadable.  We pick our favorites on a song-by-song basis and almost gone now is the extended play and enjoyment of a full album/cd.  Even I fall victim to this with iTunes and my iPad.  But I’ll still listen to CD’s in my car on occasion, and my stereo at home is so old it not only has a 3-disc CD changer by also duel cassette players!  I keep it because the surround sound speakers are pretty bad-ass, but it also makes me feel like by never upgrading (who needs to with all the other portable devices now?) in my own insignificant way I’m sticking it to the man. 

There are some albums I will never tire of and will always find a home in my car or stereo.  Here are three albums (not surprisingly all from my high school or college days) that I love to listen to every track in entirety in order over and over.  Sure, more than three albums fit this bill, but when it comes to something like Muse’s Absolution or Wolfmother’s debut album – I gotta be in the mood to listen to stuff like that.  These three all-time favorites I don’t need to be in any kind of mood to listen to.  At any hour on any day in any given year, I could pop these babies in and not skip a beat or miss a lyric. 

1.  Weezer – The Blue Album – (1994) I’m not sure, but this may have been one of the first CD’s I ever bought when I was a freshman in high school.  And it still plays like a champ – ahh – quality technology these CD’s are.  Favorite Track: Holiday

  Continue reading

Robbie Gil Live at The Tin Angel

Straight from New York as part of his East Coast tour, Robbie Gil will be playing at The Tin Angel in Old City, Philadelphia (at 20 South 2nd Street).  He’s set to take the stage at 8:30pm on Thursday night, January 27th, 2011.  Be there or be square.

As any New York City independent music scene fan with true grit knows, a Robbie Gil show is not to be missed, and it’s a special treat to have him playing the streets of Philadelphia.

Check out past Spotlights on Robbie Gil’s live shows and his newest album, Save Yourself.

For more details and tour dates, check out Robbie Gil’s official site.  To purchase tickets for Thursday night’s Philly show, check out the website for The Tin Angel.

Robbie’s CD’s are available for purchase at his shows, through iTunes or on the web at cdbaby.com.

Written by David H. Schleicher

Spotlight on the Independent Arts: Save Yourself

It’s time again for The Schleicher Spin to put a Spotlight on the Independent Arts.  

The goal of this recurring feature is to give exposure to, encourage collaboration with, and provide honest critiques for independent artists.  The plan is to feature filmmakers, writers, photographers, painters and musicians.  As an independent author, I feel it’s important to support and celebrate those working independently to forge their careers in the arts.   

If you are an independent artist interested in having your film, book, music or art considered by The Schleicher Spin for a Spotlight feature, please submit a comment. 

Our current entry will focus on the new full length album from New York’s own Robbie Gil, Save Yourself

Robbie Gil : Save Yourself

The Lowdown:  Robbie Gil should be no stranger to Spin readers or to fans of the New York City music scene.  He’s been featured before on Spotlight on the Independent Arts and is regular headliner at Manhattan’s legendary Rockwood Music Hall.  Recently he released a new album, Save Yourself, which can be purchased at one of his shows or through cdbaby.com.  Older songs from his album Stumble Inn and his EP Lightning in a Bottle are also available on iTunes.

Maybe it’s my bias as a writer, but my favorite musicians are those who are first and foremost masterful storytellers – the Bruce Springsteens, the Fiona Apples – they know not only how to craft a tune, but also how to tell a compelling story in as few choice words as possible.  Robbie Gil, with his “Cat Stevens-by-way-of-Ray LaMontagne” vibe is no different.  Continue reading

Three for the Road

The dog days of summer bring endless balmy nights and I find my thoughts wandering down the road.

And no one rules the road like The Boss.

At my home in South Jersey I’m just a stone’s throw from the White Horse Pike and I find myself itching to hit the highway to chase storms and dreams along my own personal Thunder Road heading to Atlantic City. Continue reading

Spotlight on the Independent Arts: Robbie Gil

***This is the second post in a new feature I plan to showcase here at The Schleicher Spin called Spotlight on the Independent Arts.  

The goal is to give exposure to, encourage collaboration with, and provide honest critiques for independent artists.  I hope to feature filmmakers, writers, photographers, painters and musicians.  As an independent author, I feel it’s important to support and celebrate those working independently to forge their careers in the arts.   

If you are an independent artist interested in having your film, book, music or art considered by The Schleicher Spin for a Spotlight feature, please submit a comment. 

The second entry will focus on independent singer/songwriter Robbie Gil

Independent Singer/Songwriter: Robbie Gil

The Lowdown:  If you’re in the know, the first thing you’ll think of when you hear Robbie Gil is, “Damn, he sounds a lot like Ray LaMontagne.  Hell, they even look a bit alike.”  Continue reading