Lourdes Dir. Jessica Hausner

[Palisades Tartan; 2009]

Styles: drama
Others: Hotel, Toast, Lovely Rita

Order and ritual form the questions and mysteries addressed in Lourdes, a French film about miracles and the problems and promises that they inspire. Directed by Austrian filmmaker Jessica Hausner, the film follows Christine (Sylvie Testud), a wheelchaired woman suffering from multiple sclerosis, who makes a trip to Lourdes (a commune in France) in hopes of regaining her health and mobility. Yet the pilgrimage offers her more of a chance to socialize rather than physical or spiritual salvation.

U.S. Girls Go Grey

[Siltbreeze; 2010]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: broken dream pop, noise
Others: Inca Ore, Buckets of Bile, Zola Jesus

Back in 2008, Megan Remy released her first full-length under her U.S. Girls moniker, Introducing… U.S. Girls. On that icy bath of a record, Remy honed her own brand of mirror-universe pop deconstruction across its decisive, ascetic 25-or-so minutes. The means were simple, almost stark to the point of antagonism — one voice, one drum machine pattern, one guitar lick, heavy tape-distortion, muddy reverb, every idea rigidly rationed out like sugar in wartime — but the collective effect was devastating.

Links: U.S. Girls - Siltbreeze

Shutter Island Dir. Martin Scorsese

[Paramount Pictures; 2010]

Styles: thriller, horror
Others: Aviator, Gangs of New York, The Departed

Unlike Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese’s first collaboration, 2002’s long-delayed Gangs Of New York, Shutter Island’s release-date bump from October to February wasn’t blamed on reshoots or re-edits — not even the trailer changed over the interim. Instead, Paramount said it hoped the economy would pick up by now… now being right after the Oscars. Translation: Marty probably wasn’t headed back to the podium, and the only way this underdeveloped, overbaked period thriller could be a blockbuster is if the nation suddenly had money to burn.

Freeway and Jake One The Stimulus Package

[Rhymesayers; 2010]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: East Coast rap, mainstream hip-hop
Others: Ghostface, Beanie Siegel, Young Gunz

Pay little mind to the title; The Stimulus Package isn’t aiming to ape Jeezy’s post-Recession thug motivation shtick. Freeway lacks the pretension or ambition to put out even a half-assed concept album. Free’s always been something of a yeoman rapper: consistent, modest, and never not rapping his ass off. But modesty and lack of ambition hardly advance careers. Freeway’s first record was produced by Just Blaze, and Free At Last, his excellent 2007 follow-up, was overseen by both Jay-Z and 50 Cent. Since then, his reputation has been in steep decline.

Links: Freeway and Jake One - Rhymesayers

BJ Nilsen The Invisible City

[Touch ; 2010]

Styles: electronica, ambient, drone
Others: Machinefabriek, Lawrence English, Fennesz

Swedish musician BJ Nilsen has a well-deserved reputation as one of the preeminent sound artists operating today. His standard procedure consists of electronically-treating field recordings — often of animals and natural environments — and combining them with traditional instruments that are usually rendered unrecognizable. You’re never sure what exactly you’re hearing when listening to a Nilsen album. While knowing his methods is in no way a prerequisite to enjoying his music, you’ll probably hear his albums differently once you know how they’re constructed.

Links: BJ Nilsen - Touch

Happy Tears Dir. Mitchell Lichtenstein

[Roadside Attractions; 2010]

Styles: indie comedy
Others: Teeth

Between its plot (adult sisters come to terms with their father’s senile dementia), its title (which sounds more like a parody of a prestige picture than an actual one), and the presence of Demi Moore, it’s not hard to imagine why Mitchell Lichtenstein’s Happy Tears is tumbling out post-award season a full year after it debuted at the Berlin Film Festival. But there’s at least one big reason not to assume the worst: Litchtenstein’s previous film was 2007’s Teeth, a teen-horror comedy about an unforgettably literal case of vagina dentata.

Martin Rev Stigmata

[Blast First Petite; 2010]

Styles: Japanese role-playing game music
Others: Suicide, Stefan Roloff, The Raveonettes

Last summer, I had the pleasure of joining about a dozen classmates in a roundtable discussion with the author and journalist Joan Acocella, perhaps most recognized as the dance critic for The New Yorker. Somewhere towards the end of the chat, I asked her whether she finds it necessary to immerse herself in the background of what she’s reviewing or if she feels comfortable evaluating something without really knowing its context.

Links: Martin Rev - Blast First Petite

American Radical: The Trials of Norman Finkelstein Dir. David Ridgen and Nicolas Rossier

[Anthology Film Archives; 2010]

Styles: documentary
Others: Aristide and the Endless Revolution

A half hour into David Ridgen and Nicolas Rossier’s documentary American Radical: The Trials of Norman Finkelstein, Professor Finkelstein delivers a speech with the kind of goose bump-inducing intensity rarely heard in legal thrillers or evangelical congregations, let alone academic lectures.

Pantha Du Prince Black Noise

[Rough Trade; 2010]

Styles: minimal techno, ambient
Others: Carl Craig, Slowdive, Arvo Pärt, Burial

A lot of techno searches for the hedonist in its fans. You know, the one who at six in the morning is still sweating it out on the dancefloor of a Berlin basement club and not bothered by the fact that they have work in three hours. But despite the heavy influence of techno on Hedrik Weber, a.k.a. Pantha Du Prince, Black Noise shows a different character. For starters, according to Wikipedia, black noise is “noise with a 1/fβ spectrum, where β > 2” — or, noise that is inaudible to humans. Why name a dance album after what amounts to silence?

Links: Pantha Du Prince - Rough Trade

Local Natives Gorilla Manor

[Frenchkiss; 2010]

Styles: orchestral pop, avant-pop, vocal rock
Others: The Dodos, Jump, Little Children, Akron/Family

Like that hot guy who works in the wood shop around the corner, Local Natives’ debut LP Gorilla Manor is most attractive at its messiest. Replete with sweet piano, duetting guitars, and insistent drumming, the California quintet paints a mostly pretty picture. But it’s when they veer away from pretty that things get adorably hairy.

Links: Local Natives - Frenchkiss

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