Monthly Archives: January 2012

Who is Lana Del Rey? Context and Interpretation of a Woman Most Known For the SNL Fiasco.

Before we begin, you have to understand why searches for Lana Del Rey has surged to an extent.

Lana Del Rey performing Born To Die live on Saturday Night Live, Jan. 14th . It’s a little painful to watch to be truthful.

So it’s awkward to watch, a little hard to listen to at several points, and if this is the kind of performance an artist gives to the national audience (despite only releasing less than five songs at the time)…the results and feedback ain’t pretty. Hell it got so bad that the mild-mannered anchor for NBC Nightly News, Brain Williams got in on the act, writing  a personal email to Gawker’s Nick Denton saying Lana Del Rey “had one of the worst outings in SNL history last night.” Man she got a thrashing, which brings up the point, why on Earth did some musical online upstart get such publicity so early in her career? Sure she had widespread love from blogs (her songs are the rage on hypemachine), but why is the self proclaimed “gangster Nancy Sinatra” so deserving of such a lofty…umm…national exposure?

From Tricia Romano’s article “Lana Del Rey’s Hipster Problem”, she comments that:

“Part of the reason Del Rey inspires so much ire is that her persona is somewhat made up. Three minutes of Internet browsing will tell you a few things: She had once been a struggling singer-songwriter named Lizzy Grant. Her self-produced videos as Grant—a pastiche of nostalgic Americana imagery—were remarkably similar to that of “Video Games.” She is from Lake Placid, in upstate New York, where her father was in the domain-name business. It is not clear whether she was a trust-fund baby or she really lived in a trailer park, which is what she later told Complex magazine.

But, most controversially, she looked quite different as Lizzy Grant. She used to wear her hair short and bleached it blonde. She did not wear ball gowns. Her lips were considerably thinner. (She has denied getting lip injections.) She did not look like the gangsta Nancy Sinatra—which is how she describes herself. She looked more Mary Ann than Ginger.

But then her new music, now produced by Emile Haynie of Kid Cudi fame, stole a dash of Mazzy Star’s heroin slumber, fused it with so-called sad core soul, and paired it with mournful, poignant lyrics about a lovelorn girl. And her vocals were being sung several octaves lower. The result: Lizzy Grant had turned herself from sweet and airy to sultry and dark.

Or someone had turned her into that.”

There’s a paradox that arises from this situation. Why is there a difference between Lizzy Grant and Lana Del Rey? The Internet discovered this difference and some have condemned Lana for this, but it has also helped her out in that there’s a whole sense of intrigue and mystery to it. Perhaps that’s the curiosity that gets people to just youtube her and then find out that she’s a pretty damn good singer (at least in production). We’ll see how it shakes out now that Lana has entered the “mainstream” consciousness. Will she make the crossover? Or will the SNL experience be the definite image of her? Either way, I’m excited to see how it shakes out in her music.


Lana Del Rey Continued

I keep on hearing “Lana Del Rey” yet I have no idea what this is. Probably just a blogosphere thing. Vincent, please explain.


Must Listen: Lana Del Rey (Yes her) “Radio”

Lana Del Rey

Type the words “Lana Del Rey” into Google, and you will find more than 40 million results. MTV News, Billboard, and Reuters all currently have stories running about her. This weekend, The New York Times ran music critic Jon Caramanica’s 1,200-word article deconstructing her persona, demolishing her mythology, and, oh yes, discussing her record. (He didn’t much care for it.) Caramanica wrote: “This is album as anticlimax, the period that ends the essay, not the beginning of a new paragraph.” Well screw that. Yeah I’m one of those people who love Lana Del Rey, SNL-fiasco or not.  Regardless of any other track and hype she’s had so far, “Radio” is a damn awesome track that stands up on its own, without any hype if you took the other tracks away from what you’ve heard so far. It’s hauntingly beautiful. What matters is that she has a beautiful voice and she is hard working. If she brings people joy, then let it be. ‘Lana del Rey’ translates to ‘The King’s Money’, and with the quality of music like this, she’ll be rolling in that kind of dough soon.

Lana Del Rey- Radio


Memoryhouse – “Walk With Me”

[mp3]: Memoryhouse – Walk With Me

In the lead up to their highly anticipated debut album, ‘The Slideshow Effect’, Toronto dream-pop duo Memoryhouse have shared a second track from the release.  The song really takes an upbeat positive turn at the end rising high up above the rest. It captures the feeling of being in a moment too good for you to truly realize how good it is.Smooth, dreamy intro.  A magnificent indie pop crescendo. What’s there not to like?

 

As a new years treat, Memoryhouse recorded a cover of The Zombies “This Will Be Our Year”. It’s a calm reassuring cover that is super smooth. Here’s the message that the band posted on theirtumblr.

In light of the new year, Evan and I have decided to record a cover of one of our favorite Zombies songs, “This Will Be Our Year”. Thank you everyone for all of your support in 2011, and I hope this song helps motivate you to lose 5 pounds, stop smoking, and watch less reality T.V. (or is that just me?). Lots of exciting things are in the works this year, onward and upward!

Download the cover below. Here’s the original.

[mp3]: Memoryhouse – This Will Be Our Year (The Zombies Cover)


Avatar Young Blaze – “Fly High”

This dude is making Seattle’s most marketable hip-hop. He’s on something completely different from the rest of the city and could be the spark we need to get the scene on the map on a nationwide scale. Araab Muzik’s beat is a banger and Blaze spits with an undeniable flare.


New Frank Ocean: “Voodoo”

In typical Frank Ocean fashion, the Odd Future crooner took to his Tumblr account to share a brand-new track. And like his previous material, “Voodoo” finds him blending his more straightforward sing-song delivery with falsetto-y, reach-for-the-skies vocals. It’s also relatively moody with swashes on synthesizers perfectly complementing the acoustic guitar strums and laid-back drums. He has been prepping the release of his debut album on Def Jam. Let’s just hope that the album is on it’s way soon, this one’s short but pretty smooth.It’s barely longer than 90 seconds, which leaves us thinking this must either be a snippet or an interlude.

“she’s got the whole wide world in her juicy fruit / he’s got the whole wide world in his pants

he wrapped the whole wide world in a wedding band / then put the whole wide world on her hands

she’s got the whole wide world in her hands / he’s got the whole wide world in his hands.”

MP3: Frank Ocean: Voodoo

(frankocean.tumblr.com)


Act of Valor – Film Review

A missed opportunity to humanize the heroic soldiers who serve our country every day.

First, I should give you a bit of background on the film, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Act of Valor began as a recruitment video for the U.S. military’s Naval Special Warfare Command. In 2007, Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh of Bandito Brothers Production filmed a video for the Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen which led the Navy to allow them to use SEALs for Act of Valor. None of the SEALs’ names will appear in the credits of the film.

Relativity Media acquired the rights to the project on June 12, 2011 for $13 million and a $30 million in prints and advertising commitment. Deadline.com called it “the biggest money paid for a finished film with an unknown cast”. The production budget was estimated between $15 million and $18 million.”

The Bandito Brothers (Scott Waugh and Mouse McCoy) tried to make a realistic, interesting war film with real soldiers. They tried to make an immersive action film, but with heart. Sounds a lot like that other movie I just reviewed. The problem? It’s not nearly as good; I wish both films kinda combined. This film could use good actors and immersive-ness. Haywire could have used a compelling, slightly more epic plot.

The first mistake they made came as a result of good intentions. Casting real Navy SEALs was meant to give the film an authentic feel; instead, it just ended up making the acting literally laughable. The unknown actors used to portray either deceased SEALs or civilians aren’t much better.

The plot isn’t great, but it’s based on real life events, so no complaints there. The way the film is structured though, with many slo-mo sequences seemingly randomly thrown in for “emotional impact”, bothered me.

The dialogue comes off as cringe-worthy. Writer Kurt Johnstad likely turned in a solid script, but due to the poor acting, the lines come off as cheesy and at times unintentionally funny.

The biggest sin the film commits is the lack of character development. This film had a unique opportunity to humanize and generate a genuine empathy for the soldiers who are brave enough to put death before themselves in the name of their country and their fellow man. This doesn’t happen until the last two minutes for just one soldier in the unit, and it’s posthumous at that. (Though that ending is by far the best part of the film.)

Much killing is done, but the morality of the actions is never questioned; it’s a propaganda effort for sure: ‘Follow orders, good things will happen’. Funny that no urination on finished enemies was depicted. Not to say that all soldiers are like that, but there’s no attempt to give these people any personality. No good, no bad, no reason to care.

Women are mostly missing from the film, outside of the role of the stay-at-home wife and the tech support soldier, working safely from the base.

The cinematography, by Shane Hurlbut, is quite good. A carpet-rolling sequence is neat in particular. Most of the film was shot on a Canon 5D, a small DSLR camera that we use a lot here at film school, which is notable for its cheapness but also its high-quality professional look. (It means we could shoot a feature. If we could write a practical one.)

I should note that most people who were at the screening, including my friends, liked or even loved the film. I was in a very small minority. Which I admit, I was a little surprised by.

My recommendation though would be to go watch a better war film instead: Saving Private Ryan, Patton, Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket and Born on the Fourth of July all come to mind. Hell, The Expendables was more entertaining. I’m sure there are more. But like this movie, I’m too lazy to develop this interesting concept fully.