Best of the Week…

September 17, 2005

In an effort to keep everyone current (including myself), I will offer my two cents on the state of media; The Best’s, The Worst’s, and of course, the Mediocre’s. Yes, this is the same media that zaps our kids into zombie-hood, or analytical genius-hood, (depending on your point of view, and if you’ve read Steven Johnson) and the same media that degrades (or uplifts) our version of moral clarity in this difficult era of medial ambiguity. Let’s rock.

Music’s Best:

Devendra Banhart’s Cripple Crow: If I hear one more critic talk about the so called "leader of the freak-folk movement" or hear anyone utter the nonsense "neo-________" in relation to Devendra Banhart, I will be forced to take active measures. Let’s get this straight. Devendra Banhart is a songwriter that writes good music. That’s all. Cripple Crow is by far Banhart’s most accessible album to date. His voice is focused, the production is tasteful, and the twenty-two song album contains many a gem. Cripple Crow may introduce a new fan-base to Banhart that he wasn’t expecting:seventeen year old kids looking for an alternative to hardcore. Call me crazy but I see vast similarities in the two subcultures. Look for this album to storm the airwaves of forty year old vegan’s AND eighteen year old boys wearing eyeliner.

Listen: Cripple Crow Sampler

Honorable Mention: Ghosty, Sigur Ros, Iron and Wine/Calexico

Music’s Worst:

While this column will, in the future, be reserved for potentially great artists that produced terrible records, I will throw a soft ball out for our trial run. Trapt: Someone in Control; A terrible miscalculation. Having evolved as a culture in the last few years, we now have crappy nu-wave bands storming our radios rather than crappy nu-metal. Trapt, sticking to their guns and unfortunately their apt namesake, have, with this new record, sentenced themselves to death. The album is just nu enough to sound old, and just poppy enough to aggravate their already aggravated, tribal tattooed following.

Don’t Listen: Trapt: Someone in Control

Dishonorable Mention: David Gray

Television’s Best: Austin City Limits remains as a great show with great artists, although I never see it when it actually airs. This year upcoming artists will be Beck, Ben Folds, Spoon, Rilo Kiley, and The Killers. Before most of the fall season has started, its hard to pinpoint what’s the best show etc… but I am most looking forward to the second season of The Office. The Office (albeit a different "Office" than it’s British counterpart) is a delightfully dry comedy with a talented acting and writing staff. Greg Daniels (writer/producer) has written for SNL, The Simpson’s, the classic Seinfeld "parking space" episode, and now serves as executive producer of the show. With Daniels’ unique and ambitious style at the helm, this show is in good hands.I wonder, however, whether NBC will milk it dry instead of cutting it short (in a brilliant and disappointing way) like the British version. Regardless, we are in for a good season.

Television’s Worst: The War at Home: Bad Script, Bad Actor, Bad Premise, Bad Parenting = Another canceled show for Michael Rappaport. Stacked: One viewers realize they can stare at Pamela Anderson in many other forms of media, this show will never been heard from again. American Dad: Family Guy is funny because its not political (and indiscriminately mocks everyone), Family Dad is not funny because it tries too hard and lacks unique ideas (most of which are swallowed up by McFarlane’s better, earlier time slotted show).

Literature: While I wish I had the time to read a new book a week, I tend to only get through one per week and a half, thus this section will be occasional. Recent reactions: Nick Hornby — A Long Way Down: Hornby is a unique writer in his ability to capture life so properly, yet subtlety. While the book is rather bleak in subject manner, this was thoroughly enjoyable to read. Stephan Johnson — Everything Bad is Good For You: Funny, insightful, unique in theory; this is a coffee sipper but an enormously smart look at popular culture. That last generic review could also be substituted for Chuck Klosterman’s — Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, which was also very enjoyable, but quite different than Johnson’s book.

That is all for now. Until next week.

JK

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