It feels criminal that this collaboration between the frequently-phenomenal Deltron 3030/Handsome Boy Modeling School producer Dan “The Automator” Nakamura and Mary Elizabeth Winstead—an actress we love, from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Smashed—produced an album so lacking in chemistry.
It’s been 13 years since Audrey Tautou captured the hearts of cinema fans the world over as Amélie, the adorably meddlesome and pure-hearted waif at the center of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s global hit of the same name. She’s played a sweeping variety of characters in the years since her breakthrough, from historical figures (Coco Before Chanel) to maniacs (He Loves Me… He Loves Me Not). Save for a lone Hollywood venture opposite Tom Hanks in The Da Vinci Code and Stephen Frears’ British thriller, Dirty Pretty Things, the majority of Tautou’s work has been in her native France.
Rarely do bands pull off such a marriage of sound and visuals that it’s this hard to separate the music from their graphic palette. Gorillaz are probably the most famous recent example of this; Belle & Sebastian’s consistently monochromatic artwork worked to a similar, if lesser, degree.
W. Cullen Hart’s latest Circulatory System LP—a collage of Beatles-eque pop experiments and other sound scraps—offers a handful of inspired snippets mired in too much sluggish, avant-garde muck. Highlights include the whimsical “Aerial View of a Heart (From Above)” and “If You Think About It Now”—this project works best when Hart is dabbling in Sgt. Pepper/Kinks territory.
If you’re not familiar with this Danish group, run to YouTube and find their brilliant “The Swans” video: the nine-minute space opera finds our spacemen-musicians landing their ship on a strange planet and confronting a monster-sized puppy, like something out of a Roger Corman film.
Donovan Blanc has the sound and feel of a lost psych-folk solo platter, the sort of thing hardcore vinyl-heads would buy for a cool $200 in NM condition at a record fair (until it was inevitably reissued by some Italian label on 180-gram white plastic).
After his 2006 film Once —starring Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, later of The Swell Season—turned into an international sensation, Irish filmmaker John Carney avoided musicals for the next eight years, afraid of being pigeonholed as “that music guy.” But the idea for his latest movie, Begin Again—about a stage-shy songwriter who strikes out on a solo career with the help of a down-on-his-luck label executive—dates back many years: the premise was inspired by Carney’s experience with a band he played in after high school.
The early ’90s were a golden age for female-fronted guitar pop bands. Groups like The Blake Babies, that dog, Velocity Girl, or The Darling Buds weren’t doing anything as advanced or far-out as what artists like P.J. Harvey, The Breeders, or Liz Phair were up to roundabout the same time, but they filled a need for sunny alternative pop centered on warm, feminine vocals.