Imaginary soundtrack for a Wes Anderson movie.

Photo still: Hotel Chevalier

Wes Anderson’s long withstanding obsession with mellow, baroque pop and british invasion bands is fascinating to me. I keep uncovering my new, old favorite song every time I see one of his movies. I even have a playlist dedicated to his films, filled with songs and artists I discovered thanks to him and a few more songs that I think would fit in his next hypothetical movie. I’ve no idea what his next movie will be about but I’ve been thinking that his mostly muted, awkward characters would develop grandly in a fast-paced environment. It could be an interesting contrast. How about a movie about a speed racer? Or better yet, a road movie? A film about the life of a motorcycle drifter and his dreams of finding someone and settling down. Keep that thought while listening to this playlist. Hope you enjoy.

It seems film directors are returning to the truths all pop music devotees have long tattoed to their heart: the collision of medium and man matters not, if it don’t sound good. In a recurring series tracing the links between movies and the pop music scores to which they owe so much, we’ll look at Wes Anderson’s ultra-stylized The Royal Tenenbaums and its mastery of the perfect pop music score. Film and cinema. Consider it a two-fer and settle in nice and close.

Pop culture fans tend to be self-mythologizers, building an odd nest out of the twigs and scraps of the movies and albums around them and claiming a place beyond themselves from the miasma that evolves. We force the arts into defining elements of ourselves, and copy and paste the way we might live up to them. Wes Anderson’s film is a masterwork of just this self-mythologizing. The grandiose characters—part cartoon-script and part Shakesperean tragedy—, the exaggerated costumes—from Mr. Sherman’s almost neon-blue jacket to Chas’s funereal black Adidas jumpsuit—and even Anderson’s Hitchcockian auteurism and its use of the same actors in widely-divergent roles links each movie to a larger awareness than any single film can lay claim to. Hints are given and fingers are pointed, but the links are there for the audience to follow at their choosing. Anderson rubs things smooth with his hyperstylized sets and costumes, but ultimately the film depends on pop music to connect itself to a world beyond its own colorful walls, and thus to blend the myth with the movie until there’s no longer any differentiating between the two.

- A kiss after supper: The Royal Tenenbaums by Derek Miller.

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Category: Folk, Pop, Rock

Moka’s Top 10 Albums 2011

1. EMA – Past Life Martyred Saints (Souterrain Transmissions)
Listen: Anteroom

Martyrs are not victims. There is no self-pity or cool detachment to their pain. This is the mantra by which Erika M. Anderson lives in her songs. Past Life Martyred Saints is an intimate but uncomfortable album, it will make you feel guilty for the hearts you’ve torn apart and it will make you feel weak for all the times you’ve been hurt and felt victimized for it.

2. Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges (Constellation)
Listen: Fear of the Unknown and the Blazing Sun

The first time I heard Colin Stetson he was the opening act for Godspeed You! Black Emperor and it was absolutely mind-blowing. Some of us mistook him as a sound engineer and were caught completely by surprise when he started playing. One by one we fell into a silent trance as he created out of thin air the most magnificent, heartbroken beasts I’ve ever heard from a one man band. Recorded in one take with no overdubs, Judges captures the thrill of hearing him live with precision. Not only is the record technically impressive and conceptually novel but also highly compelling at a musical level. Inspired by post-rock and electronic pioneers, Stetson favors sonic aesthetics over experimentation, every deviation sounding calculated enough as to not scare the feeble away but smart enough to hook the most demanding listeners.

3. Shabazz Palaces – Black Up (Sub Pop)
Listen: Swerve… The reeping of all that is worthwhile (Noir not withstanding)

Experimental hip-hop that finds its roots on avant-garde jazz acts such as Sun Ra instead of disco and funk. I’ll be completely honest, english being my second language I have a hard time trying to understand hip hop lyrics, so I suck at appreciating the genre for one of its defining features and yet the multiple twists and turns in Black Up give it a replay value like few other albums I heard this year. Breezy, psychedelic and extremely unpredictable.

4. Braids – Native Speaker (Flemish Eye)
Listen: Lemonade

Native Speaker feels to me like an erotic reinterpretation of Animal Collective’s ‘Feels’; on one hand it has the same approach in creating pop music: Loops of haze, rock instruments stretched to odd realms and cryptic lyrics; on the other one, we’ve never heard Animal Collective create songs as deeply personal and carefully constructed as the ones in Native Speaker. There’s a definite streak of innate sensuality and maturity which gives the music a whole new level of influence and meaning.

5. Robag Wruhme – Thora Bukk (Pampa)
Listen: Wupp Dek

It’s always a treat to hear a producer who is proficient and well known around the techno community turning away from the dancefloor to release music that borders outside of their usual field of expertise. Thora Vukk is Wruhme’s exploration of his music’s more melancholic, contemplative side, while keeping the sense of tension and attention to detail that he has perfected as a techno producer. The result is warm, gorgeous album that is fascinating, at least on an aesthetic level. Chillroom microhouse.

6. Thee Oh Sees – Castlemania (In the Red)
Listen: I Need Seed

Of all the indie bands that have adopted the garage rock influence, Thee Oh Sees are, in my humble opinion, one of the most fun around. At 16 tracks, Castlemania is their longest album to date yet there isn’t a single song in here that outwears its welcome. Every track keeps things fresh by throwing a wild, eccentric touch into the mix which makes them sound like a forward thinking, modern band that isn’t particularly concerned with revisionism.

7. Vinicius Cantuária & Bill Frisell – Lágrimas Mexicanas (E1)
Listen: Aquela Mulher

One of my favorite discoveries this year was Vinicius Cantuárias’ music; an elegant sort of Brazilian jazz that seems to fit all my moods and seasons. On ‘Lágrimas Mexicanas’ he is joined by guitar-virtuoso Bill Frisell and the result is a very colorful sound that switches between Frisell’s heavily geared, atmospheric stylings and Cantuaria’s Brazilian sensibilities. Although it doesn’t quite bring anything new to the table this album is an absolute pleasure to listen to.

8. Chain & the Gang – Music’s not for Everyone (K)
Listen: Why Not?

Chain and the Gang frontman, Ian Svenoniu comes up with an upfront, snobby attitude and the unruly approach of a punk star, rocking out unironically while critiquing the very own genre’s conventions. Mordant and unusually funny, the enjoyment of this album depends on how much you appreciate tongue in cheek sloganeering and cynicism.

9. Crystal Stilts – In Love with Oblivion (Slumberland)
Listen: Through the Floor

While Thee Oh Sees sound like they are pretending they’re a 60′s garage band that travelled in time to use today’s technology, Crystal Stilts behave like gravekeepers. They think of their dead idols as purveyors of a sound now rotten and decomposed, creators of long forgotten anthems that are now bathed in a ghoulish atmosphere. Do not, under any circumstance, attempt to undig them. The dead should remain buried deep underground. Leave them be. Hear what their spirits are whispering and reinterpret it for any of us living that might still be listening.

10. The Go! Team – Rolling Blackouts (Memphis Industries)
Listen: Ready To Go Steady

I remember being annoyed by the songs in ‘Thunder, Lightning, Strike‘ when I first heard them back in 2004. It took me 4 years to finally understand, digest and admire the band, nowadays it has become one of the most treasured pieces of my music collection. When ‘Rolling Blackouts’ came out earlier this year I already knew what to expect, the energy of a horny, raging bull charging into a room filled with cheerleaders, brass-blasting walls of sound and a complete lack of subtleness. If this sounds like your thing, then it is as amazing as it sounds.

Note: I’ve had this post ready for months now, almost thought of killing it and storing it in the fridge… I mean it’s probably a bit late for best-of lists but maybe it will help you discover something you missed out. Hope you enjoy.
Also: Schils Favourite Albums 2011 & his Top Mixes and Compilations.

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Category: Best Of, Electronica, Hip hop, Motel de Moka, Pop, Rock

mango bo ginko

Photo: Hotel Basico. Playa del Carmen.

Belated summer / continental nostalgia.

  • Andrew SistersRum & Coca Cola
    Rum & Coca Cola (1944)
  • Cesaria EvoraSodade
    Miss Perfumado (Lusafrica, 1992)
  • Os MutantesBat Macumba
    Os Mutantes (1968)
  • Seu JorgeBem Querer
    Cru (Naïve, 2004)
  • Vinícius CantuáriaIndia
    Silva (Hannibal, 2005)
  • Arto LindsaySimply Beautiful
    Mundo Civilizado (Bar None, 1996)

I’ve gone missing for the best part of the summer. Not really doing anything meaningful, mostly hypnotized and reckless.  Love will do that to you. No excuses this time.
Right now the hurricane Jova is painting the Mexican coast with rain and it’s forcing me to stay indoors all week (good news for MdM) and since I’m all sorts of a rebellious escapist I’ll call in the hidden suns with some warm, sensuous – mostly – brazilian music. I owe you a whole summer after all. Please enjoy this playlist as an apology.

note: In the past few years we were using the playtagger script to stream mp3s. As some of you may know, Yahoo! has sold the delicious to Avos and playtagger has been axed by their development team. And so, we’re left with two options: Yahoo!’s webplayer or Aol’s streampad, the former is the most similar to the one we had before and the later is less invasive but it’s hard to notice if you don’t know it’s there (check the bottom of the page as it is the one we’re currently using). The good thing about both is that they allow a continuous stream of the playlist, a feat missing from playtagger. Comment away if you know about a third option or if you’d like us to switch to the yahoo! webplayer.

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Category: Acoustic, Bedroom playlist

Your loneliness says that you’ve sinned.

Photo: Phyllis Galembo. via: butdoesitfloat

When you’re not feeling holy, your loneliness says that you’ve sinned.
And you won’t make me jealous if I hear that they sweetened your night.
We weren’t lovers like that and besides it would still be all right.
- Leonard Cohen, Sisters of Mercy.

A mix of lush downtempo and heartbroken R&B hybrids. Good companions for smokey terraces, strolling through the city at night or trying to swim from something bigger than you.

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Category: Motel de Moka

The excitement of getting a room with a minibar

Image: Creator’s Inn.

“Emotions, in my experience, aren’t covered by single words. I don’t believe in “sadness,” “joy,” or “regret.” Maybe the best proof that the language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling. I’d like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic train-car constructions like, say, “the happiness that attends disaster.” Or: “the disappointment of sleeping with one’s fantasy.” I’d like to show how “intimations of mortality brought on by aging family members” connects with “the hatred of mirrors that begins in middle age.” I’d like to have a word for “the sadness inspired by failing restaurants” as well as for “the excitement of getting a room with a minibar.” I’ve never had the right words to describe my life, and now that I’ve entered my story, I need them more than ever. “
- Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex.

Look at me, all grown up and still pretty naïve. I already know much of the things that I like and those I don’t. I feel both happy and sad most of the time and I don’t really know what that means or what to do with it. There was a time where I devoted most of my energy trying to decode it. Now happiness and sadness reveal themselves as emotions that can’t really be narrowed down into simple words. For all I know they might be the same thing.
This playlist is an exploration of sorts of the colliding hues of happines and sadness. Debased by a feeling that these might just be the last days of summer. Hazy, laidback and breezy but wistful and yearning at the same time. They don’t realize that when the end of the night comes and you say goodbye you’ll truly mean it, but we’re all having fun so why ruin it with drunken ruminations. Take your picture and keep on dancing. The sun will keep on rising with or without you.

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Category: Bedroom playlist, Folk, Psychedelic

With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world's great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire's glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song's measure
Can trample an empire down. [1]

Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end! `I wonder how many miles I've fallen by this time?' she said aloud. `I must be getting somewhere near the centre of the earth. Let me see: that would be four thousand miles down, I think--' (for, you see, Alice had learnt several things of this sort in her lessons in the schoolroom, and though this was not a very good opportunity for showing off her knowledge, as there was no one to listen to her, still it was good practice to say it over) `--yes, that's about the right distance--but then I wonder what Latitude or Longitude I've got to?' (Alice had no idea what Latitude was, or Longitude either, but thought they were nice grand words to say.) [2]

O long-silent Sybil,
you of the winged dreams,
Speak out from your temple of light
as the serious constellations
with Greek names
still stare down on us
as a lighthouse moves its megaphone
over the sea
Speak out and shine upon us
the sea-light of Greece
the diamond light of Greece

Far-seeing Sybil, forever hidden,
Come out of your cave at last
And speak to us in the poet's voice
the voice of the fourth person singular
the voice of the inscrutable future
the voice of the people mixed
with a wild soft laughter--
And give us new dreams to dream,
Give us new myths to live by! [3]

So our princes who have lost their principalities after many years’ of possession shouldn’t blame their loss on fortuna. The real culprit is their own indolence, going through quiet times with no thought of the possibility of change (it’s a common human fault, failing to prepare for tempests unless one is actually in one!). And when eventually bad times did come, they thought of •flight rather than •self-defence, hoping that the people, upset by conquerors’ insolence, would recall them. This course of action may be all right when there’s no alternative, but it is not all right to neglect alternatives and choose this one; it amounts to voluntarily falling because you think that in due course someone will pick you up. If you do get rescued (and you probably won’t), that won’t make you secure; the only rescue that is really helpful to you is the one performed by you, the one that depends on yourself and your virtù. [4]