Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ellie Goulding Among the Highly Anticipated Albums of 2010 (plus downloads)


If 2009 was any indication of the kind of music that 2010 will bring, we can predict a couple things. First, female artists are becoming dominant in terms of popular music -- with the likes of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, and Beyonce (among others) crushing their male counterparts in record sales. Second, we have seen that pop music currently favors upbeat, electronic, dance-styled sounds.

With this said, the last post of 2009 will be a preview of Ellie Goulding, who (I hope) can ride these trends to stardom. Ellie's distinct voice, collaborations with top-notch electronic producers such as Starsmith and Frankmusik, and a style that is completely unique has literally got the entire music world buzzing.

She has already released two EPs -- Under the Sheets and An Introduction to Ellie Goulding. Unfortunately, almost all of her music is unavailable in the US (she's from the UK) -- so I have posted a starter pack of her demos, covers, and remixes below. Be sure to download them and enjoy.

Ellie Goulding Starter Pack
The End (demo)
Every Time You Go (demo)
Guns and Horses (demo)
Swimming Pool (demo)
The End (demo)
The Writer (demo)
Wish I Stayed (demo)
Be Mine (Robyn cover w/ Erik Hassle)
Roscoe (Midlake cover)
StarryEyed (Jabwok Remix)

(MP3) DOWNLOAD: the Ellie Goulding Starter Pack (click here)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Third Time's A Charm

I'm from a small town in South Carolina. Unless you go to a neighboring city, there is literally one movie theater for you to go to, and it only has 8 screens. Now I'm not complaining. In fact, I generally like going to smaller theaters. But trying to go to go see Sherlock Holmes was a bit of a pain over the Christmas holiday -- I ended up having to try the theater on three different occasions before I finally made a showing that wasn't sold out. Apparently, everyone else in town also wanted to go to the movies this weekend. This was, of course, good for Hollywood, but bad for me. But I digress. Back to the point of this post -- Sherlock Holmes (preview post here).

The movie itself was decent. The soundtrack was pretty cool, a sort of mix between Irish and Eastern Eurpoean music (I know that sounds weird, but it's the only way I know to describe it). And the set of London in 1891 was pretty masterfully done. Predictably, Robert Downey Jr. was very good as Sherlock Holmes. He was by far the funniest character in the movie, full of witty comebacks to much of the rest of the cast. But he wasn’t exactly what I expected. Despite his brilliance and superior fighting skills (there are a few scenes where Holmes plans out how he will engage an opponent in battle that are really pretty cool), Holmes was a drunken, disheveled mess for much of the film. And without the help of the more composed Watson (Jude Law), one can’t help but think that Holmes would not have done much, if any, criminal investigation. Watson, by the way, is very much Holmes’s equal (and arguably a better fighter) in the film. The two have a constant internal struggle concerning Watson’s engagement (and subsequent resignation from crime investigation) to the beautiful Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly).

The dynamic duo is joined by Rachel McAdams’ Irene Adler, a cunning thief in her own right and Holmes’ love interest. McAdams’ Adler is really only an average character. She doesn’t add much to this movie (despite being nice to look at) as her character is really never given a chance to develop, and I hope her role gets expanded if any sequels are made. She is employed by Moriarty (who does not play much of a role in this film either, but his presence leaves the door open for sequels – he is Holmes’ chief rival in the book series) to assist Holmes in stopping the sinister Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong). Through the use of chemistry and other clever tricks, Lord Blackwood has convinced the world that he is the risen dead and has dark magical powers. It’s up to Holmes and company to stop Blackwood and expose him as a fraud. I won’t lie to you. Blackwood is one of the least intimidating villains of any superhero movie of recent memory (I suppose you may not consider Holmes a superhero, but he really is when you think about it).

Despite some pretty solid performances in the film (especially Downey, Jr.), I say that this was only a decent film because the plot itself was somewhat lacking. Most of the movie is just strange events happening that make Lord Blackwood seem supernatural and Holmes and Watson fighting various Blackwood henchmen. Then, Holmes spends about five minutes at the end of the film explaining to Lord Blackwood (and the audience) that he’s figured out how Blackwood has managed to pull off his tricks. It feels very much like watching a cartoon episode of Scooby-Doo and having Velma explain everything at the end. I know that Guy Ritchie fans might have expected just such an ending (consider the ending of Snatch, for example, where we learn that a “pikey” reaction is “quite a f**king thing”). But there is a notable difference between a twist ending and watching a film where you know that truths will ultimately be revealed, only to have them done so in a seemingly arbitrary fashion at the end of the film.

Bottom line: This was a decent movie anchored by some good acting. But it wasn't really a great one. Guy Ritchie's career definitely needed a blockbuster like this, and I think a sequel could be much better than the first. (B-).

Here's the preview:

Friday, December 25, 2009

All Time Top 5 (Christmas Movies)


First and foremost, we at bip-bip. would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas (or the more politically correct, "happy holidays"). We hope everyone gets at least a couple days away from the daily grind and can spend some quality time with your family and friends. If you're like my family, Christmas Eve usually involves dinner, everyone getting to open one present (yes it's cheating, but I know we're far from being the only ones who do this), and a Christmas movie (thanks to my Grandma, it's usually It's A Wonderful Life).

Christmas, more so than any other holiday, has a plethora of great movies devoted to it. Think about it. Try and name your favorite Thanksgiving movie (for the record, I'd have to go Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and it's not even close). It's hard to even think of any. The same cannot be said for Christmas. The list just goes on an on. And it made narrowing down that list to just five incredibly difficult.

So, without further ado, here's the All Time Top 5 Christmas Movies:


5

Love Actually -- From Billy Mack's (Bill Nighy) "Christmas is All Around Us" to Joanna's (a.k.a. "the one," played by Olivia Olson) rendition of "All I Want for Christmas," this movie is loaded with Christmas spirit. I find it quite odd that it has somehow managed to be the first film to make its way to two top 5 lists (see the other here). And I even thought about leaving it off for just that reason. But, as the movie constantly reminds us, "at Christmas, you tell the truth" and any list of great Christmas movies without this gem on it would just seem like a lie.


4

It's A Wonderful Life -- As I mentioned above, this is a Christmas Eve favorite with my family, and for good reason. This 1946 classic is probably watched by more families during Christmas than any other out there, and it's been that way for a very long time. Watching goodhearted George Bailey learn just how good his life has been is a wonderful tale for the whole family. And the title is a message I find myself telling others quite often (just ask my fellow bip-bip. contributor). Let's all be glad it didn't end like this.


3

Home Alone -- Maybe it's just because I was part of the key demographic for this movie when it came out, but it always makes me think of sitting around with my brothers and cousins (when we were much younger) at my grandparents house watching Kevin outsmart the Wet Bandits while my mom and the rest of the "grown-ups" got Christmas dinner ready. Some might argue that this movie doesn't belong on the list, but when it comes to Christmas movies, this one belongs purely for nostalgia's sake.


2

Christmas Vacation -- Probably my favorite Chevy Chase (by the way, if you aren't watching it yet, his new show Community is actually pretty decent) movie of all time, Christmas Vacation is likely the first movie that most people think of when it comes to funny Christmas movies. Watching Uncle Eddie (Randy Quaid) and the gang invade the Griswold family Christmas is always a treat. And Clark taught us all what the standard in home decor for the holidays should be.


1

Elf -- I assume that this selection for the top spot will receive a good deal of criticism. No, it's not a timeless classic that families have been enjoying forever. But outside of that, what more could you want from a Christmas movie? Will Ferrell and company really outdid themselves with this brilliant Christmas comedy that I believe will eventually become a classic that gets the same respect as some of the other names on this list. Anyone who disagrees is just a cotton-headed ninny-muggins.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

bip-bip presents... (includes download)











After much deliberation, bip-bip. has compiled our very own "Best Albums of '09" list. With so many great albums being released this year, there are certainly noteworthy albums that didn't make the cut. A few of the most deserving honorable mentions include: The Avett Brothers' I and Love and You, Neko Case's Middle Cyclone, White Rabbits' It's Frightening, Major Lazer's Guns Don't Kill People... Lazers Do, Yeah Yeah Yeahs' It's Blitz, Islands' Vapours... to name a few. Still, if we had to recommend just ten albums to buy this whole year... these would be it. Enjoy.



The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (Best Track: Young Adult Friction) -- Take some washed out vocals mixed with a little melancholy and a sound that is eerily reminiscent of The Smiths, and you have a debut album worthy of the repeat button.




Basement Jaxx - Scars (Best Track: Feelings Gone) -- This London duo has put together another addictive electronic album that features distinct sounds from track to track (as well as great contributors such as Santigold and Sam Sparro).





Regina Spektor - Far (Best Track: Eet) -- Imaginative lyrics and innovation song construction makes Far possibly the best Regina Spektor album to date... which is saying something.






Discovery - LP (Best Track: So Insane) -- It's no shock that an experimental side-project between members of two the best modern indie rock bands, Ra Ra Riot and Vampire Weekend, created a musical gem.






The Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca (Best Track: Two Doves) -- Strangeness and unfamiliarity of the first listen quickly turns to genius and obsession by the third or fourth listen.






Fanfarlo - Reservoir (Best Track: Finish Line) -- A sure to be staple of chamber-pop, this band which has been heavily compared to Arcade Fire has put together a Funeral of its own.






Miike Snow - Miike Snow (Best Track: Song for No One) -- Perfectly executed pop-music that simultaneously sounds familiar and completely original. For such a heavily produced album, they can pull it off live as well.





We Were Promised Jetpacks- These Four Walls (Best Track: Moving Clocks Run Slow) -- How this Scottish band fell completely off the radar for most popular "best albums" lists is beyond me. Similar to Frightened Rabbit-- with just as much promise.





Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Best Track: Girlfriend) -- The no-brainer number one for most lists. Phoenix has finally broken through to the mainstream in a big-way, creating a cd that finally reflected their long-standing potential.





Passion Pit - Manners (Best Track: all great... but start with Sleepyhead) -- Who knew that the combination of weird falsetto vocals, a children's choir, and some of the most unique sampling and synths could create the best album of the year. Give it a try -- it is musical perfection.

MP3: DOWNLOAD Passion Pit's Myspace Transmissions Live (click here).

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Avatar: The Next Step in Filmmaking?


Probably later than most readers of this blog, I finally got around to seeing James Cameron's Avatar (you can find the preview post here) today at my hometown IMAX theater. The much anticipated, much publicized (I'm not sure how many fans of The Tonight Show are out there, but Ben Stiller actually went on and promoted the movie even though he was not a part of it in any way -- never seen anyone do that before) movie did not disappoint. I'm not ready to give it best picture or anything, but the special effects are pretty incredible, and the story itself is a pretty good one.

Simply put, Avatar is the most technologically advanced movie that you've ever seen. Aside from the fact that it's in entirely in 3-D (although, to be honest, there really weren't that many scenes in the movie where things were "coming out of the screen" like you'd expect) on special stereoscopic cameras that were specially designed for Cameron's vision, the computer generated characters were created via a brand new type of motion capture technology. I won't get bogged down in the details of how it works, but it essentially allowed Cameron to watch the digital creation of his film in real-time, as his actors were actually acting (as opposed to other motion capture technologies where the digital world are created after the actor's motions are captured). The end result is a fantastic computer-generated world (Pandora) that is full of awesomely imaginative vegetation, creatures, and the Na'vi (the natives of the land).

The story itself is also very well done. Markedly similar to the classic tales of Dances With Wolves and The Last Samurai (and, as one of my friends said after he saw it -- it's "basically FernGully on steroids"), the movie tells the story of Jack Skully (Sam Worthington), a crippled former marine chosen to help a mining company explore Pandora by entering the world remotely through the control of a genetically created Na'vi. Skully also secretly agrees to provide intel to Colonel Quaritich (Stephen Lang), the head of the company's security detail (basically an army), on how to defeat the Na'vi. But after spending time with the Na'vi and learning their ways, Skully finds that he feels he belongs more with them than the human race, siding with the natives he originally set out to destroy (just like Kevin Costner and Tom Cruise's characters did in their respective movies). I won't go in to further detail, but trust me that the plot is both simple enough for young children to enjoy and complex enough that any seasoned movie-goer will not be disappointed. This is, after all, a James Cameron production, and this blogger has always thought that he is a master of drawing in audiences of all ages and backgrounds.

I was honestly a little bit underwhelmed with the acting performances of most of the cast, but they weren't bad enough to really put a dent in the armor that the rest of the movie's positives have created. Giovanni Ribisi's Parker Selfridge (the "suit" from the mining company in charge of the project) is really just not believable in his role (despite the fact that I actually think Ribisi is a pretty good actor in general). Worthington, Sigourney Weaver (who plays head researcher and fellow lover of the Na'vi , Dr. Grace Augustine), and Michelle Rodriguez (who plays fighter pilot Trudy Chacon -- and whose work I've honestly never really appreciated) were all average at best. And Stephen Lang's Quaritich is a little bit cliched and doesn't really contribute much to the film. I actually thought the best work of the film came from Zoe Saldana (who we never actually see, but whose voice work was very well done) as the Na'vi princess and Skully love interest, Neytiri. She is very believable as a tribal princess who is both proud and passionate in her love of all living creatures.

But don't let me lead you to believe these are reasons not to go see this movie. Aside from Ribisi, I really wouldn't complain about any actor in the film. I'm only emphasizing the fact that no performance really jumped out at me as anything close to Oscar worthy. The movie is still an absolute spectacle that is definitely worth the two and a half hours (as well as the increased ticket costs for IMAX or 3-D) that you'll need to devote to it.

Bottom line: As expected, Cameron strikes again. Let's hope the movie is successful enough to warrant the two sequels that he has planned. (B+)

I won't insult you with a trailer -- if you had any contact with the world in the last month, you've seen it.

Flavorwire's "Stereotyping People By Their Favorite Indie Bands"


Being stuck in a snowstorm in NYC for the past 4-5 days has seriously hindered my ability to make any recent posts. More bip-bip. posts are certainly in the works -- but, to prevent perpetual boredom on your part, I thought I would share a pretty cool post by Flavorwire that my friend just sent me. I think they are probably largely inaccurate, as stereotypes usually are, but funny nonetheless. Enjoy.

The XX
Blog enthusiasts who thought wearing a keffiyeha was awesome.

Passion Pit
Bros vaguely interested in listening to music and very interested in having sex with their girlfriend.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Girls who bought checkered sneakers in the 8th grade.

Fleet Foxes
Hopelessly patchy beard growers.

TV On The Radio
Politically-correct hipsters.

Grizzly Bear
People who think that world hunger could be assuaged with four part harmonies.

Micachu and the Shapes
Chicks with bad teeth.

Wavves
Dudes who think low production value is “authentic” and would go down on Todd P.

Steve Aoki
Alts who don’t “get” Hipster Runoff.

Joanna Newsom
People who have considered befriending a squirrel.

Devendra Banhart
People who have considered becoming a squirrel.

Animal Collective
Guys who make “Best of the Year” lists in January based predominantly on “feeling.”

The Antlers
Boys who enjoy crying more than their girlfriend.

Vivian Girls
Girls who purchase a guitar, buy flannel from the Salvation Army, wear glasses that they don’t actually need, and still can’t get the guy.

Vampire Weekend
Bros who try to make out with girls at concerts by relating to them via old Nickelodeon shows. “Remember Pete & Pete??”

Death Cab for Cutie
Girls who quote lyrics as their Facebook status.

Neon Indian
Gorilla Vs. Bear readers.

She & Him
People who hate Ben Gibbard.

Bon Iver
People with self-esteem issues and probably hate Ben Gibbard.

Washed Out
Those who comfortably accept chillwave as a genre.

Memory Tapes
Those who comfortably accept chillwave as a lifestyle.

The Shins
Premature alts who considered Garden State a life-altering viewing experience.

Radiohead
Everyone.

Tegan & Sara
Lesbians and guys who firmly believe that when there are two girls on stage together, there is a 63% chance of them making out.

St. Vincent
Feminists.

Drake
Indie rap fans who thought Tha Carter III was too mainstream.

Ra Ra Riot
Girls who got their boyfriends to watch Me and You and Everyone We Know.

Bat for Lashes
Girls who wear leggings outside of ’80s-themed parties.

Japandroids
Guys who only read Pitchfork for the ratings and haven’t showered in at least two days.

Kimya Dawson
Chicks who are described by their girlfriends as “sweet” and “really nice” when guys ask if their friend is hot.

Girls
Anyone who thinks The Catcher in Rye is the greatest book of all time.

Kid Cudi
Blipsters who still wear neon shoes and smoke pot.

The Flaming Lips
Self-actualized bros who grow pot.

Antony and the Johnsons
Guys who still cry every time they watch Bambi.

Matt and Kim
Closeted Blink-182 enthusiasts.

Here We Go Magic
Guys who are ‘over’ Gizzly Bear.

Phoenix
People who don’t listen to enough music.

Sufjan Stevens
People who believe in two things: Jesus and Juno.

M.I.A.
Girls who don’t understand politics.

Regina Spektor
Girls who don’t understand boys.

Justice
Bros who, at one point in their lives, have tried to grow a mustache.

Arcade Fire
Frequent transcendental experience havers.

Deerhunter
Avid doodlers.

Wilco
Guys who go to concerts to relax.

YACHT
Someone who, if presented with the opportunity to join a cult, would most definitely join that cult.

Ratatat
Boys who think Ocarina of Time is the greatest game ever made.

Patrick Wolf
Gay guys.

CSS
Girls who throw up at every party.

Woods
Indie dudes who wear beanies and you can see the front of their hair pulled back beneath it.

Spoon
Bros who drink shitty beer without ironic intentions.

Dirty Projectors
People who like way too many toppings on their pizza.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Living Life One Flight at a Time


I recently posted about the Christmas day opening of the much anticipated Sherlock Holmes. For those who have no interest in Holmes but are still looking for something to see, you probably won't be too disappointed with Paramount's Up In The Air. To be honest, I'm not sure which to recommend, but if you went by the recently released Golden Globe nominations, Up In The Air would be your winner -- it received the most nominations of any movie this year. And it's already won best picture from a couple of lesser known awards associations.

Written and directed by Jason Reitman (Juno, Thank You For Smoking), the movie is an adaptation of a 2001 Walter Kim novel of the same name. It's the coming-of-age story of Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) who is a corporate downsizer (a consultant who basically goes from struggling company to struggling company and fires people) that spends the majority of his life on the road. He doesn't really have any friends or a personal life to speak of. But things change once his company decides to have him located at their headquarters in Omaha for good.

Reitman had a vision of exactly what he wanted the movie to be as he wrote it. He wrote the part of Ryan Bingham specifically for Clooney. But more than that, he wrote parts specifically for much of the rest of the cast (and this movie boasts a damn good cast) as well -- Vera Farmiga (The Departed, Nothing but the Truth), Anna Kendrick (Twilight), Jason Bateman, Danny McBride (Kenny Powers from HBO's East Bound & Down), Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover), Melanie Lynskey (Two and a Half Men), Amy Morton, and the legendary Sam Elliot (if you think you don't know who he is, click here). I suppose that in reality most writers have specific actors or actresses in mind when they write certain parts, but I can't recall another time where so many of them ended up actually being in the movie. It's hard not to be excited for this one.

Here's the trailer:

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Cardinals' Chris Feinstein Passes Away (download final RA/Cardinals show)

Chris Feinstein, bassist for The Cardinals (who played extensively with Ryan Adams), passed away on December 15, 2009 in his NYC home. He was 42 and no further details have been released.

Ryan Adams and the Cardinals is undoubtedly one of my favorite all-time bands -- and Chris Feinstein was a huge addition to this talented musical group (after joining in 2006). Feinstein contributed to Easy Tiger, Follow the Lights, and Cardinology. A talented musician and, by all accounts, a great guy. His other work included: producing the I Am Sam soundtrack, appearing on Gin Wigmore's Holy Smoke, contributing songs to Santigold's debut album, and performing alongside The Strokes' Albert Hammond, Jr..

As a special tribute to Feinstein, I have posted the full bootleg of Ryan Adams and the Cardinals' last show -- on March 20, 2009 at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, GA. I was fortunate enough to be at that show, and it was an instant classic. He will be greatly missed.

(MP3): DOWNLOAD the entire Ryan Adams and the Cardinals' Final Live Performance (3/20/2009) (here).

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Spin's 40 Best Albums of 2009












While bip-bip. is in the process of creating our very own Best Albums/Tracks of 2009, I thought I'd give you a little preview of what other outlets are dubbing the "Year's Best." Spin just released their 40 Best Albums of the Year last week -- with Animal Collective taking the top honor.

As with all subjective lists of this nature, it's always easier to criticize a list (especially the order) than make one. I do think there are some serious sins of omission; but,it's a solid list that will get you mentally primed for our own countdown. Enjoy.

40 Kiss - Sonic Boom
39 Wilco - Wilco (Wilco The Album
38 Rick Ross - Deeper Than Rap
37 Gallows - Grey Britain
36 Brakesbrakesbrakes - Touchdown
35 Miike Snow - Miike Snow
34 Mariachi El Bronx - Mariachi El Bronx
33 The Avett Brothers - I And Love And You
32 U2 - No Line On The Horizon
31 Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
30 Julian Casablancas - Phrazes For The Young
29 Them Crooked Vultures - Them Crooked Vultures
28 The Flaming Lips - Embryonic
27 Jarvis Cocker - Further Complications
26 The Mountain Goats - The Life Of The World To Come
25 The Big Pink - A Brief History Of Love
24 Wolfmother - Cosmic Egg
23 St. Vincent - Actor
22 Tegan And Sara - Sainthood
21 Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. II
20 Paramore - Brand New Eyes
19 Lily Allen - It's Not Me, It's You
18 Antony And The Johnsons - The Crying Light
17 Mastodon - Crack The Skye
16 Japandroids - Post-Nothing
15 Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
14 Amadou & Mariam - Welcome To Mali
13 Jay Reatard - Watch Me Fall
12 Ida Maria - Fortress Round My Heart
11 Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson - Summer Of Fear
10 The Dead Weather - Horehound
09 Drake - So Far Gone
08 Florence And The Machine - Lungs
07 Mos Def - The Ecstatic
06 Bat For Lashes - Two Suns
05 Girls - Album
04 Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
03 Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
02 Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!
01 Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Keep The Boat Rockin'


Objectively, Pirate Radio is really not that great of a movie. There's really not that much to the plot. The characters aren't really developed all that well (probably because there are so many of them). The writing is average. It's probably a little too long. And no acting performance really jumped out at me (sure, Philip Seymour Hoffman was good in the movie, but I don't know if he was Philip-Seymour-Hoffman-good). But, subjectively, I was really glad I went. The movie is funny and entertaining, if nothing else. And I really think that anyone who loves rock music should see this thing.

The movie is loosely based on real life (I love that phrase by the way -- I feel like any movie can be "loosely" based on real life). Back in the 1960's, the British government controlled the radio airwaves and would rarely play any rock or pop (it's weird to think of bands that we consider classic rock today as pop bands back in their day, but that's what a lot of them were). To combat this, pirate radio stations were set up on boats off the coast of Britain (in international waters). One of these stations was Radio Rock (loosely based on Radio Caroline -- a station that still exists today).

Carl (played by relative unknown Tom Sturridge) is sent by his mother to join the crew on board Radio Rock after getting in a bit of trouble (his grandfather, played by the legendary Bill Nighy, is the manager of the station). His arrival leads to some new revelations among the crew and its past that make up a good chunk of the movie's plot. The rest concerns the struggle between the station and British government minister Dormandy who is played by Kenneth Branagh (anyone who has ever watched TNT on a Sunday afternoon probably knows him better as Dr. Loveless from Wild Wild West). But don't try and concern yourself with the plot too much. The best way to enjoy the movie is to sit back and laugh at the shenanigans of the various DJ's. I think my favorite was definitely Rhys Darby's (Murray from Flight of the Conchords) Angus. But Philip Seymour Hoffman's The Count and Nick Frost's (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) Dave were also really good.

And, as any of these fictional DJ's would tell you, it's all about the music. The soundtrack is terrific and might be the best part of the movie (especially for fellow classic rock lovers). The song selection is great and really goes with the movie pretty seamlessly. It's loaded with great classics (I'm no expert, but I assume they're all 60's rocks songs) and can be found here. And the end of the movie (one of my favorite parts -- but not because it meant it was over) also shows a pretty cool montage of famous album covers (as proof that rock has survived despite the British government's best efforts).

Bottom line: This movie won't blow you away -- not by a longshot. But any fan of rock 'n' roll who wants to sit back and be entertained for a couple of hours will surely enjoy it. (B-)

Here's the preview:


Monday, December 14, 2009

This Week In Movies


Here's this week's edition:


Movies I Want to See:

Avatar -- Unless you haven't watched a TV in the past month, you've seen the preview. And I also blogged about it here. James Cameron's 3D adventure could possibly be the first ever $500 million dollar film, and it better be good.

Crazy Heart (Limited Release) -- Bip-bip. favorite Jeff Bridges stars as a washed up country star in this Fox Searchlight production. He's supposed to give a pretty awesome performance and has already been nominated for an Oscar.

Movies I Would Go See:

Nine (Limited) -- I'm a little confused how a movie starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Kate Hudson, Judi Dench, and Marion Cotillard (A Good Year, Public Enemies) isn't getting more publicity than it is. Yes, it's an adaptation of a Broadway show, but that's a stellar cast. You can find the trailer here.


Movies I Would Never Go See:

Did You Hear About The Morgans? -- I've never really liked anything that Sarah Jessica Parker has done, and the preview doesn't make me think this one will be any different.


A couple of sidenotes:

It's a great week for DVD's too. The highest rated movie of this young blog's life, Inglourious Basterds, comes out on DVD Tuesday. And so does the funniest movie of the year, The Hangover.

A long overdue Pirate Radio review will be coming soon...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Vinyl Sales Up: A Happy Coexistence for Digital and Physical Media?














Even though we are in the midst of an increasingly digitalized age, there are encouraging signs that people still have some nostalgia for physical media. While the cd is undoubtedly losing ground to digital albums -- which, I think, is a travesty -- there is a glimmer of hope that vinyls will be around for a while.

According to a recent New York Times article, more than 2.1 million vinyls have been sold in 2009 thusfar -- which is a 35% increase from last year. This is much more modest than the growth from 2007 to 2008, in which vinyl sales went up 90%, but its still growth. Obviously, CD sales and digital music still dominate. Through June of this year, 121.8 million CDs were sold, versus 33.2 million digital albums, and just over 1 million vinyls.

Yet, even though vinyl sales only account for less than 1% of overall album sales, there is reason to optimistic. CD sales are falling dramatically (20% compared to digital albums this year), while vinyl sales have continually been on the rise. This means that even though 99% of people might eventually buy digital albums, there is a solidifying niche market of 1% or more to keep vinyls alive.

As a commenter in the NY Times article said: “It is absolutely easy to say vinyl doesn’t make sense when you look at convenience, portability, all those things . . . But all the really great stuff in our lives comes from a root of passion or love.”

Well put.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Guy Ritchie's Last Chance


On Christmas day, Warner Bros. will release Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes. And this blogger really hopes that it gets the writer/director back on track to earning all the hype and much-deserved praise he received after Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch (two really excellent films -- Snatch especially -- for anyone who hasn't seen these) came out at the turn of the millenium. Since then, the 21st Century has been disappointing (to put it kindly) for those expecting good things from Ritchie. His 2002 film Swept Away (starring his then-wife Madonna) won five "Razzies" (basically the Oscars but for bad films) including Worst Picture and Worst Director. And 2005's Revolver is really one of the stupidest movies I've ever watched in its entirety. 2008's RocknRolla was definitely a step in the right direction from those two disasters, but it still wasn't on his par with his earlier work.

Enter Robert Downey Jr. (who seems to be currently immune from making anything but good movies over the last few years) to save the day. He'll star as a new-and-improved (and if the previews are any indication, ass-kicking) Sherlock Holmes. Of course, he'll be joined by his sidekick Watson (whose first name is actually John for those who are curious) who'll be played by Jude Law. As the casting of Law would suggest, Watson won't be the goofy, bumbling sidekick most probably envision, but he'll instead be much more of an asset (and equal) to Holmes in their attempt at stopping the destruction of Britain. Everyone's favorite girl next door (well maybe second favorite to the actual Girl Next Door, Elisha Cuthbert), Rachel McAdams, (Wedding Crashers, The Notebook) will also tag along to help the duo and play Holmes's love interest, Irene Adler.

Based on Ritchie's recent work, there's no guarantee that this is going to be a good movie. And if this ends up being a bust, I'm pretty sure we can all stick a fork in him. But the cast is great, and the preview looks really good. If you're someone who traditionally goes to a movie on Christmas afternoon, you probably won't be disappointed if you pick this one (assuming you haven't seen Avatar yet).

Here's the preview:



Monday, December 7, 2009

Songs Worth Reading: Josh Ritter's The Temptation of Adam













The modern practice of having artists perform songs written by professional song-writers has greatly affected the orginality and authenticity of song-writing. Lyrical quality has taken an even greater hit than the music -- as introspection and personal experience has been replaced by generic sentiment. Fortunately, there are a few musicians out there, such as Josh Ritter, who still take lyric-writing seriously.

Josh Ritter is a singer-songwriter from Idaho, who was influenced by artists like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, as well as writers such as Mark Twain. He has released 5 studio albums to date -- as well as several more EPs and live shows -- and a new album is slated for release in 2010. Here is one example of his remarkable lyrical ability.


The Temptation of Adam
"If this was a cold war we could keep each other warm," I said
On the first occasion that I met Marie
We were crawling through the hatch that was
The missile silo door
And I don't think that she really thought that much of me
I never had to learn to love her
Like I learned to love the bomb
She just came along and started to ignore me
But as we waited for the big one
I started singing her my songs
And I think she started feeling something for me

We passed the time with crosswords
That she thought to bring inside
"What five letters spell apocalypse?" she asked me
I won her over singing "WWIII"
She smiled and we both knew that she misjudged me
Oh Marie it was so easy to fall in love with you
It felt almost like a home of sorts or something
And you would keep the warhead missle silo good as new
And I'd watch you with my thumb above the button

Then one night you found me in my army issue cot
You told me of your flash of inspiration
You said "Fusion was the broken heart that's lonely's only thought"
And all night long you drove me wild with your equations
Oh Marie do you remember all the time we used to take
Making love and then ransack the rations
I think of you leaving now in the avalanche cascades
My eyes get washed away in chain reactions

Oh Marie if you would stay we could stick pins in the map
Of all the places you thought that love would be found
But I would only need one pin to show where my love is at
In a top secret location 300 feet under the ground

We could hold each other close
We'd stay up every night
Look up into the dark like it's the night sky
Pretend this giant missile is a old oak tree instead
And I'd carve your name in hearts into the warhead
Oh Marie something tells me things just won't
Work out above
That our love would live a half-life on the surface
So at night while you are sleeping
I hold you closer just because
As our time grows short I grow a little nervous

So I think about the big one
WWIII
Would we ever really care the world had ended?
You could hold me here forever
Like you're holding me tonight
I think about that great big button and I'm tempted

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Indie Christmas Mixtape













I'm not one to criticize the christmas classics, but every now and again a little update is needed. I mean how many times can you honestly listen to The Carpenters without going at least slightly crazy. Once in a blue moon, a new song can even turn into an christmas classic. Just think about Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You -- which is now a staple for christmas radio stations. Did I mention it's also the best selling ringtone of all time?

While none of the songs off this playlist will likely become the next christmas smash, if you're looking to add a little spice to your otherwise overplayed and outdated christmas playlist -- look no further.

Indie Christmas Mixtape:
Sufjan Stevens -- Come On! Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance!
Rooney -- Merry Xmas Everybody
44.1k - The Christmas Sound
Badly Drawn Boy - Donna and Blitzen
Squirrel Nut Zippers - Santa Claus Is Smoking the Reefer
Ron Sexsmith - Maybe this Christmas
Guster - Donde Esta Stanta Claus
The Weepies - All That I Want
Low - Just Like Christmas

MP3: DOWNLOAD the entire Indie Christmas Mixtape (click here).

Want a preview before you commit?


Friday, December 4, 2009

MOG All Access -- Better than Rhapsody, Itunes, and Pandora Combined?




For the most part... yea.

So this might seem like a bit of self-promotion, since we are affiliates for MOG... but for anyone that wants to experience the best online music -- this is for you. MOG just launched MOG All Access, and its similar to Pandora, in that you can discover new artists, listen to similar artists/bands, all without any mental exertion. It is also a lot better than Pandora, and more like itunes, in that you can create playlists, share them with friends, and (oh I almost forgot) -- listen to any track to any album at anytime. No more time spent clicking thumbs up and thumbs down to move on to the next song.

There are a couple kickers though. First, this service isn't free. It's $5 bucks a month, which will be a deal-breaker for most people. Second, you don't own the music (unlike itunes).

In all honesty, its a top-notch service. I only fear that it won't take over the business because of the price-tag (even though it's dirt cheap). Check it out though. Everyone gets a free hour.

Did I mention that MOG gives you the most up-to-date music news as well (including bipbip. posts)? And thats free!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

(Mostly) Fantastic Mr. Fox


Anyone who read my preview post about Fantastic Mr. Fox knows that I'm a big fan of Wes Anderson. And I was pretty excited about the movie. And for good reason -- aside from Wes Anderson's direction, the movie had a lot going for it: the voice cast was great, it was done in very cool and underused stop animation style, and the movie had been getting great reviews (including a nearly unheard of 100% rating on rottentomatoes). But, much to my chagrin, despite having been released for two weeks, the movie was not playing anywhere near me (Charlotte, NC) until the last few days.

To say I was disappointed would be misleading. I liked the movie. I really did. I just didn't like it as much as I thought I would. It was definitely enjoyable, and there were many things about it that were vintage Anderson. Despite being an adaptation of a children's book, it was certainly geared towards adults. It was full of the dark, humorous, and awkward one liners we've come to love from Anderson. I think my favorite character of the movie was actually Jason Schwartzman's "Ash," Mr. Fox's insecure son who is obsessed with proving himself to his father as being an athlete (the sport they play in the movie, called "whackbat," is pretty hilarious). His approval-seeking (and yet rebellious at the same time) attitude leads to some pretty funny moments. And George Clooney's "Mr. Fox" also had some pretty funny lines as well.

The stop animation was very well done and made me realize that more movies should be done this way. As I watched, I thought about how long it must take to produce a stop animation film -- according to WikiAnswers, it probably takes about 1 to 2 hours for every 30 seconds of animating; if you extrapolate that out to 90 minutes of movie, you're looking at about 180 to 360 hours. Keep in mind that this is only to shoot the movie and doesn't factor in all the prep time it takes to actually create the scenes. It's no small time commitment. And the voice work (especially Jason Schwartzman and Michael Gambon as "Mr. Bean") was also pretty good. Most of the movie was George Clooney's "Mr. Fox" talking, but his voice fit the part well. And Streep sounded like a natural as the supportive, yet frustrated, "Mrs. Fox."

But there seemed to be certain things that were lost in translation -- things that I would've appreciated and enjoyed much more if the movie had real people in it. I think it made various parts less funny than they otherwise could have been if real actors were on screen (i.e., I would've laughed much more if Bill Murray the man was on screen as opposed to Bill Murray the badger). It's really not anyone's fault -- pretty much all animated (especially stop animation) movies suffer from a similar fate. It's hard to convey certain facial expressions through animated characters, and, for the most part, real people are just funnier than animated characters (in this blogger's opinion anyway). Don't get me wrong -- I completely understand that this movie needed to be animated (it is, after all, about a group of talking animals), and, truthfully, many of the movie's strengths stem from the fact that it was. But I'm still much more of a fan of "real life" Wes Anderson movies. And I probably always will be.

Bottom line: Wes Anderson loyalists might be slightly disappointed with the film, but it is still a quality piece of work with many things you'd typically expect from him. The stop animation is pretty cool, and I'd recommend it to moviegoers of all ages. (B)

Here's the trailer:





Monday, November 30, 2009

Albums We Missed, Because We Weren't Born Yet -- Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life (plus live download)










Last month I posted about Bob Dylan's Nashville Skyline (click here) -- highlighting a poem, of sorts, about Bob Dylan as written by Johnny Cash (who was also featured on the album). With that poem in mind, I tried to scan through my vinyls to discover other gems which you may have missed if you bought the album off itunes.

What I found was the opening passage to a 24-page lyric booklet for Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life. The album was listed as the 56th greatest album of all time by Rolling Stone, and I am convinced it is the greatest album name ever conceived. I have the collector's album from 1976, and I'm not sure if this opening passage was included in the standard release; but, since the standard album did not contain the lyric booklet, I'm guessing not.

If you didn't already know, Stevie Wonder's birth name was Stevland Hardaway Judkins (later changed to Morris), and this opening passage, written by Stevland, gives nice insight into his Stevie Wonder alter-ego.

Opening Remarks to Songs in the Key of Life (an excerpt):
"I've never considered myself an orator nor a politician, only a person who is fortunate enough, thanks to all of you, to become an artist given a change to express the way he feels and hopefully the feelings of may other people. It is to me a fact that Stevie Wonder is that temporary someone of myself even though we have come to know each other very well and realized because of who he is, the many doors that have been opened may have been closed to myself, Stevland Morris. It is important that you do note permanently in your mind that I do take not a second for granted. For I do believe it is that Stevie Wonder is the necessary vehicle on which Stevland Morris must be carried on his mission to spread love mentalism. In every album that I have and shall do, it is not my goal for that to be better than that and the next to succeed the others, but only that I do and give the best I can at the time of my doing and giving and that only happens because of the dis- or satisfaction that made me want to be a better someone..."
-- Stevland

MP3: DOWNLOAD Stevie Wonder -- Live in London (1/31/1974) (click here).

This solid bootleg includes: Intro-Contusion, Higher Ground, Mary Wants to be a Superwoman, To Know You is to Love You, Signed Sealed and Delivered, Visions, Dont You Worry 'Bout a Thing, Living for the City, You are the Sunshine of my Life, Superstition, Encore Jam.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sometimes Casting Is Easy...

When the makers of Invictus were trying to decide who they wanted to play Nelson Mandela, I bet it took them all of about 2 seconds to arrive at Morgan Freeman. Not only do the two look alike, but Freeman is one of the few actors in Hollywood with the presence and ability to deliver a speech that is even capable of playing the part. Unquestionably my favorite narrator in movie history (i.e., The Shawshank Redemption and Million Dollar Baby), I'm excited to see how well Freeman does at pulling off the difficult role.

For those not familiar, the movie will tell the true story of the 1995 Rugby World Cup held in South Africa. Apartheid had ended, Mandela was president, and South Africa was in desperate need of a unifying force. Mandela thought hosting the World Cup would be a way to unite his people. Matt Damon will play the captain of the South African team that went on to the World Cup and united the country.

I've actually seen a few documentaries on this already, and I can tell you that it's really a great story. But if Freeman and Damon aren't a big enough draw, the movie is also directed by Clint Eastwood. I'm sure I'll touch on this subject more in future posts, but Eastwood's move to directing has really been one of the biggest blessings to American cinema, especially his work of the last decade or so. Although I didn't really care much for Flags of our Fathers or Letters from Iwo Jima, Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River, and Gran Torino are all flat-out terrific films, and Changeling and Blood Work were also decent. Hopefully the Eastwood-Freeman-Damon combo is a recipe for a great film.


Here's the preview:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Turkey with a Side of Mash-ups












If you aren't a fan of mash-potatoes this Thanksgiving, try out these mashups instead -- brought to you courtesy of Super Mash Brothers. The duo, consisting of Nick Fenmore and Dick Fink, have dubbed themselves "Girl-Talk's Hot Cousin," -- and described their work as "taking all of your favorite hits from the 90's and combining them with todays chart topping rap hits in ways scientifically proven to make you shake your ass."

In my opinion, their albums are amateurish compared to Girl Talk -- utilizing far less creative sampling and far fewer songs. Still if you like Girl Talk and continuous track-style mashup albums, you'll definitely like these guys. As always, it's a surefire way to kick off any party.

MP3: Download their latest album, All About the Scrilion (click here).
MP3: Download their first album, Fuck Bitches. Get Euros. (click here).

Lost Treasures: A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints

As I scrolled through the "Watch Instantly" feature on my Netflix account, I stumbled across a 2006 film that I had never heard of, A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints. I noticed that it starred Robert Downey Jr. (just before his big breakout) so I decided to give it a shot. And I'm glad I did. It turns out the movie is actually pretty good. It's just that nobody has heard of it (well, nobody except the higher-ups at Sundance who gave it the Director's Award and Special Jury Prize in 2006). The film is a well-paced 100 minutes full of terrific acting (actually done by some very famous actors that would make for a huge movie if it was coming out today) and scenes of life in Queens, NY during the 1980's that seemed very genuine, but often heartbreaking and terrible at the same time.

I won't go into the details of the plot too much because, honestly, there isn't a lot to it. The movie is essentially a myriad of flashbacks from the real life of Dito Montiel (played in present day by Robert Downey Jr. and played in the past by Transformers star Shia Labeouf), and the events that led up to him leaving his hometown behind on a bus to California. Dito's day-to-day basically consists of hanging out with his friends, especially his best friend Antonio (basically the thug of the group; played really well by an actor I generally don't care for -- G.I. Joe and Fighting's Channing Tatum), during the day and getting into minor trouble here and there. They often spend time at Dito's house, talking to his father (played by Chaz Plaminteri from The Usual Suspects) and mother (played by Dianne West). And their nights are generally filled hanging out with a group of neighborhood girls, including Dito's high school girlfriend, Laurie (played in present day by Rosario Dawsome and in the past by relative unknown Melonie Diaz).

But, as the film progresses, tragedy strikes in various ways, including a conflict with group of neighborhood grafiti artists that really escalates in large part to Antonio. As things get worse and Dito's relationship with outsider Mike O'Shea (Martin Compston) begins to influence his thinking, Dito realizes he wants out of New York and wants to escape his troubles to flee to California. It is there that he becomes a famous writer before finally returning home 15 years later.

As I said before, the movie honestly doesn't have a great or powerful plot. It really is just a series of memories from Dito's life. But most of the scenes are compelling in their own way, and you aren't left feeling shortchanged at all. On top of that, the acting is really very good. Despite my opinion that he is usually not a very good actor, Channing Tatum may have had the best performance of the movie. And Labeouf does an admirable job as well.

The movie also used a couple of unique effects that I really liked. For one, it highlighted important dialogue between Dito and Mike as well as Dito and his father by silencing out all background noises so you only heard the two talking. That may not be the best way to describe it, but you'll see what I'm talking about if you ever see it. Another unique thing that the movie did was have its characters periodically look into the camera and say simple things that really define their characters (for example, Antonio looks into the camera and says, "I'm Antonio. I'm a piece of shit, and everyone knows it"), and, for reasons I can't explain, these seemed to resonate with me as I watched.

Bottom line: It's hard for me to understand why a movie packed with so many stars and so well received by critics flew under the radar like this one did. It's definitely worth checking out. (B)

Here's the preview:


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Judd Apatow's Attempt at Dramatic Comedy

Judd Apatow's Funny People comes out on DVD today and, despite the film's title, is actually just as much of a drama as it is a comedy. The movie isn't just fun and games and that wonderful brand of raunchy comedy that we've come to expect (and love) from Apatow. Instead, it tries to be a lot more and actually enjoys modest success for its efforts.

It tells the story of superstar comedian George Simmons (Adam Sandler, Apatow's real life ex-roommate) who is somewhat of a self-important ass. Simmons is diagnosed with leukemia and given a very small chance to live. Facing this news, Simmons decides he wants to spend his remaining days doing stand-up, his first love. And he hires struggling comedian Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) to help him write jokes for his act and basically work as his personal assistant. As the two get closer, Ira convinces George to tell others about his illness.

George contacts his ex-wife Laura (played by Apatow's real life wife, Leslie Mann) who is now married with two daughters. She tells George that she misses him and is unhappy with her marriage. Eventually, George overcomes his illness. And events transpire that force Laura to really make a decision between George and her husband (played by Eric Bana). I won't ruin the rest of the movie for anyone, but, if you can't tell so far, the plot is much more developed and serious than your average Apatow film. Dealing with life threatening illnesses and lost loves, the film is as much a coming-of-age tale about both Ira and George as it is anything else. Although not as emotionally compelling as a really good drama, I still found myself actually caring what happened to our characters (really one of the key ways that I judge whether a drama is good or not).

For as much as I've talked about the drama in this movie, there is still some comedy in it. The stand-up bits (by the way, the stars of the movie actually traveled across the country doing live stand-up at various comedy spots for the footage in the movie) are moderately funny, but they actually would've been much funnier if the film had included more of the work of Aziz Ansari (you might know him from Scrubs or Parks & Recreation) whose work as "Raaaaaandy" has actually developed somewhat of a cult following. You can check out some of his stuff that was left out here. Jonah Hill (Superbad, Knocked Up) and Jason Schwartzman are both somewhat funny in supporting roles. And I'm also really starting to fall in love with Apatow's newest stars, his daughters Maude and Iris (also the daughters from Knocked Up). They're actually really funny. But, all in all, the comedy is somewhat lacking compared to Apatow's other films. And if you have no interest in anything but laughing, you will probably be disappointed. There is just too much time devoted to more serious matters.

Bottom Line: The movie is sort of a combination of an average comedy and an average drama. But for whatever reason, I actually thought it was pretty decent. Be warned that it is rather long, but I think it's definitely worth a watch. But maybe not a buy. (B-)

Here's the preview:





Other movies coming out on DVD:


Angels & Demons -- This was a very average thriller that had some pretty entertaining parts but seemed relatively uninspired. Unless you have to own it because of the book, I wouldn't bother. (C)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

This Week In Movies




Here's this week's edition:


Movies I Want to See:

The Road -- I posted about this a long time ago. I absolutely loved this book. Hopefully, the movie will do Cormac McCarthy's masterpiece justice.

Movies I Would Go See:

Ninja Assassin -- Despite one of the more ridiculous titles in a while, I'd go see this if I was looking for a good action movie.


Movies I Would Never Go See:

Old Dogs -- Memo to John Travolta and Robin Williams: What has happened to you guys? Please stop taking every shitty script that gets tossed your way. Some actors get better with age (e.g., George Clooney, Alec Baldwin). You guys are clearly not in this category.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Female Covers Mixtape... plus Eric Prydz "Call on Me" Live
















This, you could say, is a completely inadvertent mixtape. I was just skimming through my music and came to the realization that I have tons of covers by female artists. I tried to siphon out the covers that sound like they should be background for some bad romcom, instead chosing to to pick, what I think, are at least minimally interesting covers that put a unique spin on the songs. Some will probably enjoy it, others will not. I guess that's the nature of the beast ("the beast" being music).

Just in case you listen to this mixtape and feel like you have an increased sensitivity to the feelings of others and/or crave dark chocolate.... I have also posted a live version of Eric Prydz's "Call on Me" -- which should snap you out of it and bring you back to manhood.

Noisettes - When You Were Young (Killers cover)
Sky Ferreira - Animal (Miike Snow Cover)
Ellie Goulding – The Wolves (Act I and II) (Bon Iver Cover)
Bat For Lashes - Use Somebody (Kings of Leon cover)
Sara Lov - My Body Is A Cage (Arcade Fire cover)
Jonna Lee - The District Sleeps Alone Tonight (Postal Service Cover)
Run Toto Run - Sleepyhead (Passion Pit Cover)
Anya Marina - Whatever You Like (T.I. Cover)
Dirty Mittens - White Winter Hymnal (Fleet Foxes cover)

MP3: Download the full Female Covers Mixtape (click here).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

USA v. World (Round 3): Clash of the Titans -- Billy Joel v. Elton John











Tied at one a piece entering Round 3 of USA v. World, I decided to finally showcase the match-up that got me started on this whole idea -- Elton John (UK) v. Billy Joel (USA). This is one seems particularly strange, considering that the two musicians are not only friends, but they have been longtime touring partners since 1994 -- creating, literally, the "most successful concert tandem in pop music history."

If we go straight by the numbers, there is no question that Elton John edges out Billy Joel. Even though both musicians kicked off their careers right around the same time (the early '70s), Elton John has sold over 200 million records worldwide -- nearly doubling Billy Joel's 100 million records sold. Both have picked up five Grammys, which I actually found to be surprisingly low; however, John has also picked up an Academy Award, a Tony, and a Golden Globe. Joel's thirty-three Top-40 hits are also a far-cry from John's impressive fifty-six.

While the numbers may be skewed, music is an art... not a science. Being such, quantifiable comparisons (such as records sold) perhaps pale in comparison to unquantifiable artistic accomplishment. Let's consider this single fact: all thirty-three of Billy Joel's top 40 hits were apparently written by him single-handedly. Compare this to Elton John, who has famously collaborated with Bernie Taupin for the past 40 years. In fact, Taupin helped John write lyrics for several (verging on most) of his biggest hits, such as Your Song, Candle in the Wind, Rocket Man, Tiny Dancer, I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues, Sad Songs (Say So Much)... among others. This is a big mark on Elton John's undeniably impressive resume -- because, last time I checked, lyrics, and the ability to form them, is one of the key components of songwriting. (scroll down past video to see winner)



Winner:
Elton John. USA 1, World 2.

Even with the lyrical assistance of Bernie Taupin, no sane person would try to claim Elton John lacks genuine talent -- as compared to modern manufactured pop acts who can simultaneously lack any cognizable level of talent and sell millions of records.

Instead, Elton John can bask in the knowledge that he is both a commercial success and artistic genius. He has also penetrated pop-culture in a way that most artists couldn't comprehend. Everyone knows he wrote The Lion King's Can You Feel the Love Tonight and most people were appauled at Tim McGraw's remake of Tiny Dancer... but this fact remains. His work touches on every aspect of our culture. If you're a girl, you probably own a copy of Moulin Rouge's version of Your Song and, if your a guy, you probably remember Rocket Man serving as ironic background music during one of The Rock's best scenes.

Oh yea.... and he also wrote "Candle in the Wind" -- which, following Princess Diana's death, became the best single of all time.