My Best of 2010: Music Picks by Kelly

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, January 13, 2011 08:45pm | Post a Comment
Howdy and Happy New Year, one and all. I've spent about a week and half, that is the first week and a half of 2011, listening only to the music I purchased last year and I've come up with a list of stuff that I am not only not sick of but ready to live happily ever after with. Here's what I love the most, my best picks for music released in 2010, and you know it's gotta be firm 'cause it's all I've been living on. Let's go:
sun city girls funeral mariachi album cover
Sun City Girls - Funeral Mariachi (Abduction)

This is the kind of record that you listen to repeatedly, one side at a time. I think I must have replayed side one at least five times before moving on to play side two again and again --- it's just a mesmerizing and solid piece of work, enchanting and haunted by an astounding breadth of world music influences (no doubt culled from field recordings, transmissions and the like Sun City Girls has gifted to the public via their Sublime Frequencies label, which pretty much makes them, alongside Mississippi Records, the Smithsonian Folkways of our generation). This release is held even more dear by the fact that it is the last Sun City Girls record due to the death of drummer and vocalist Charles Gocher Jr. in 2007. It's also a limited release, so get it while you can. In fact, it's the "get it while you can" of 2010.

Sun City Girls - "Blue West" from Funeral Mariachi

All That Biodigital Jazz, Man

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, December 30, 2010 10:55am | Post a Comment
tron arcade game legacy disney upright set
I remember the first time I caught sight of the glowing, blacklit neon appeal of TRON. The boxy upright console outshone the others in my hometown Putt-Putt arcade and I couldn't help desiring to bask in its purple hazed portal though I'd always considered Centipede to be my one and only love. Let's be honest, playing TRON was about as exciting as the saccharin in a can of Tab, no matter how romanced I was by that Starlight Express meets Pinball Wizard of a design story. It's a silly game popularized a silly movie and it seems the good folks down at Disney completely understand that. TRON may never be taken seriously for its dramatic narrative and that's exactly right-on, but it is bursting with cinematic content. For me, re-viewing the 1982 classic TRON flick and the recently reimagineered TRON: Legacy was pure pop Sci-Fi pleasure the likes of which anyone this side of the Logan's Run Carousel knows better than to over-analyze.

Anyway, what better way to punctuate sweet freedom of another semester completed and celebrate the spirit of the season than seeing TRON: Legacy in IMAX 3D over Christmas vacation? Disney's new take on the ambitious yet sketchy Rotoscoped, post modern, science-fantasy arcade-gaming jam delivers a not very smart but sometimes clever cross-section of tired sci-fi/fantasy genre clichés, slickly redesigned to diamond-cut, mind-blowing visual perfection, ever flying the promotional gaming flag and still driven (literally!) by a pre-Lebowski albeit CG'd Jeff Bridges (which raises questions about the ethical treatment of dead actors' imminent bodies of possible future work) as well as the more popular (and less obviously plasti-complexioned) post "Dude" Jeff Bridges. Aesthetically, TRON went from this: 
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to this:
tron legacy castor party sequence sexy costume disney
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...clunky helmet no longer required. I really love the visual shift in the application of a primary color scheme from TRON's UV tinged, patent eighties neons to the updated laser red, tungsten yellow and halogen blue as they appear both on and off their respective renderings of "the grid," not to mention the thrilling, hi-tech hard edge TRON: Legacy has over the crappy vectorgraphic "effects" dealt by its predecessor. However, TRON: Legacy does manage to shovel its fair share of shit: what's with that queeny Castor character and his, or should I say HER, swishy hardly-head-of-security counterpart? Accommodating the Brits-as-villains Star Wars stereotype much? Castor's little ditty and dance act should be cast out. And how about all that easy, cheesy dialogue? I swear some of those lines were straight up lifted from the Matrix --- is that why this film wasn't made ten years ago? And while I'm not buying so much the Neo/Jesus/Skywalker/Solo vibe of Kevin Flynn's son (played by Garrett Hedlund), Sam, I am totally vibing on Jeff Bridges' Obi Wan/God/Gandalf "zen thing" update of his completely timelapsed character, under the influence of a heavy dose of his Dudeness (Duder, or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing). I mean, really, if Bridges hadn't had his prior engagement with the brothers Coen, TRON: Legacy would probably only have its visual wizardry going for it and zero characters for folks like me to latch on to. Besides, I was more than ready to settle in and enjoy the ride after that opening sequence: Bridges' voice, speaking over Daft Punk's excellent score of electronic minimalism meets classical orchestration --- incorporating Wendy Carlos' original TRON soundtrack in a fitting homage --- urging us to think of a time when computers seemed more magical than mechanical and menacing, the inevitability of A.I. more a willing dream than nightmarish catastrophe. "The Grid," he recalls: "A digital frontier. I tried to picture clusters of information as they move through the computer. What did they look like? Ships? Motorcycles? Were the circuits like freeways? I kept dreaming of a world I thought I’d never see. And then, one day, I got in."

And the Award For Best Use of Christmas in a Non-Holiday Movie Goes To...

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, December 23, 2010 08:00pm | Post a Comment
gen sekiguchi survive style 5 christmas xmas holiday movie japanese film
...Gen Sekiguchi's patchwork vomitorium of tsunamic set design and cinematographic eye-candy  Survive Style 5+!!! The random yet clearly delineated Christmas sequence of this whirlwind adventure, set to the strains of "The First Noel" turned way up to eleven, is so over-the-top fabulous and inspiring that I hope to one day successfully drown my house in holiday decor à la Sekiguchi --- every year I get closer to the mark. Enjoy the visuals! Wanna know more about how Japan "gets" its Christmas kicks? Check out my "Christmas in Japan" jam here!

This Mistletoe Belt's For You: Christmas Rapping with the Yule Logs!

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, December 10, 2010 10:00am | Post a Comment

yule logs band christmas hannukah holiday rock chico california reindeer

You don't have to love the holidays to love the Yule Logs, but for me it was love at first listen! Seeing them headline the annual "Christmas is the Best!" bonanza last year was an absolute blast and just thinking about their show coming up this Sunday at Amnesia in San Francisco (festivities begin with holiday crafting and shitty gift giving at 7pm, show at 9) has got me all worked up like a little insomniac on the night before Christmas --- baby, I can't wait! Making spirits bright since 2005, vocalist Marty Parker, bassist Kirt Lind, guitarist Maurice Spencer and drummer Jake Specher dole out hit after original hit of Christmas and Hannukah jams and spruced up traditional holiday classics with such contagious enthusiasm and flawless four-part harmonies that one cannot help but drink their kool-aid. With a good-time party sound that recalls British Invasion class, California surf-rock sass, pop savvy hooks and non-stop borscht belt humor the Yule Logs'll have your shoes off and your socks twistin' under your feet dancing their "Hannukah Mambo," fist-pumping to their "Runaround Rudolph" (featuring guest appearances by presidents William Howard Taft and Richard Nixon, along with Elvis "the King" Presley) and swooning for their rendition of Wham's "Last Christmas." Recently I rapped with the boys from Chico, California about their music, their muses and their state of holiday affairs, and their status as a "the world's premier Christmas and Hannukah rock 'n roll band;" here's what they had to say:

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The Friendly Ranger Returns: Early Thin Lizzy Remasters Available at Long Last!

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, December 6, 2010 09:35pm | Post a Comment
thin lizzy remaster cd decca shades of a blue orphanage vagabonds early portrat trio young rain park album art
Anyone been obsessing as much as I have over those early Thin Lizzy double-disc remasters that were supposed to hit the shelves over a year ago? After what seemed like an eon, Decca has seen to giving the first three Lizzy records a polished shine, reuniting a-sides with b-sides, outtakes, Peel Sessions, live jams, and the like appropriately on each respective extended reissue. Sadly, Thin Lizzy's self-titled debut and their sophomore effort Shades of a Blue Orphanage are not packaged as two CD super sets, as was promised once upon a time, but they pack just as many fever-inducing extras as the stellar Vagabonds of the Western World double-disc bonanza --- the final of the initial three Lizzy albums recorded as the bluesy, folk/rock trio of Eric Bell on guitar, Brian Downey on drums and the legendary Philip Lynott fronting the band on bass, acoustic guitar and vocals. Even if you have most of the rare and "unreleased" content squirreled away in your Lizzy collection already (like I do since I can't stop obsessing over this band because, let's face it, every Lizzy fan is Lizzy's greatest fan), it feels real, real good to have it all spiffed up and compiled together in the sort of slick, comprehensive presentation the music really deserves. The only thing that's missing here is the inclusion of the "lost" Thin Lizzy tracks, like this bongo-rific boho alternate version of "The Friendly Ranger at Clontarf Castle."

"Friendly Ranger at Clontarf Castle" -- an early early version

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