Welcome back! I hope you had a good Thanksgiving if you celebrate. Now it’s time to be thankful for our staff’s recommendations this week. We’re doing our best to cut through the noise and let you know about things we’ve been into recently that we think are worth your time. They may not always be brand new things, mind you, but that’s not the point.
This week we’ve got a couple of TV recommendations, some music you should give a listen, and an entry on a film that I have to admit I’ve been meaning to check out myself.
It’s Titane, sorry. I’m not trying to play coy over here. I’m intrigued by everything I have seen about that film.
Other entries include: The Japanese House; The Wombats; What We Do In the Shadows; Prodigal Son; and Young Heart Attack.
Let’s get to it.
TV Recommendation: What We Do In the Shadows
Clay Dockery: I had never watched What We Do In the Shadows, so I suddenly decided to binge it over the past week. I may be years behind the party, but it is quite the party to be sure. The show is exactly what it seems to be: a crude, raunchy, very silly take on what it would be like if vampires lived on Staten Island. What I didn’t expect was just how hilariously specific the humor would be. And I definitely did not expect that the vampires Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) and Lazlo (Matt Berry) would quickly become one of my favorite couples. They are a craven(sworth) duo of insane, dirty, ridiculous interactions that are hard to top. Demetriou and Berry are also absolutely hilarious. I would give nearly anything to see Lazlo and Nadja: Human Music Group team up with Mitch & Mickey from A Mighty Wind.)
This of course built to the moment my friends had tried to prepare me for: Lazlo’s showcase episode from Season 2, “On the Run”. This insane farce had the erudite British vampire don his “Americana” best costume, a pair of jeans and a toothpick, and take off (“BAT!”) for the heartland, or at least Pennsylvania. While Lazlo was there the show became in turns a series of ’80s underdog stories all rolled into one incredibly ridiculous package. His chosen name and personality of Jackie Daytona is a rip roaring, fun loving, bartender. A man who loves the town and loves the girls volleyball team most of all, and who also occasionally murders people. Topping it all off was Mark Hamill, whose Jim the Vampire character sent Lazlo on the run and ultimately brought him back home. Hamill may have one forever iconic role, but his uncanny ability to transform into these over the top, ridiculous one off characters will also be a huge part of his legacy. In the end, as it always does on this show, Lazlo and the others all get back together. All the better to serve even more ridiculousness the next week.
Music Recommendation: Everything I Love Is Going to Die by The Wombats
Christopher Pilbeam: We seem to have reached the point in the pandemic where people start looking backwards at it. Writers, artists, and musicians are clamoring to find the eternal message with which to unite and inspire all. Something along the lines of ‘we’re stronger together’ and ‘social distancing won’t keep our love apart’ blah blah. I often find this patronizing and not at all relatable. However, in a new EP from British indie rock band The Wombats, upbeat melodies meet downbeat lyrics in a sound that encapsulates optimistic nihilism and the COVID-inspired urge to start living now. And…it’s great. I think the reason it works, fundamentally, is that The Wombats are embracing tragedy rather than trying to solve it. It’s cathartic to listen to joyful songs about how everything might be terrible in the end.
This EP showcases the best of The Wombats’ signature style. Their lyrics are addictive, speaking of chaos and the frustrations of modern life, with the appropriate amount of references to Greek mythology; they take mundane things like booking codes and turn them into symbols of existential dread. It’s no mystery where the anxious undertones have come from, with references to quarantine and a song (‘If You Ever Leave Me, I’m Coming With You’) inspired by the rise in divorce rates during lockdown.
Despite my instinct to surround myself with ’90s media in order to avoid all self-reflexive pandemic art, I am very glad this EP came across my radar, and I’m sure I’ll still be enjoying it when lockdowns are a distant memory…whenever that may be…
Film Recommendation: Titane
Alix Turner: Today, I am buzzing about Julia Ducournau’s Titane. If you haven’t heard about Titane, I’m afraid a one-sentence description won’t cover it: watch out for it at your local cinema instead of reading about it. But if you have heard a thing or two about it, or better yet if you’ve seen it, let me tell you why it touched me, and perhaps it will make sense. This is no analytical review, so I don’t mind telling you that I’m so spellbound by Titane that I have to deliberately shake myself back into this world in order to even consider that the film “might not be for everyone”, as they say.
I watched it for the second time this evening and I have a feeling much of the audience was bemused or brushed it off as a bit too weird. I’m glad that the friend I went with is open-minded enough to allow herself the time to process what she saw before forming such an opinion; for now, all she said was, “I don’t think I’ve seen any film like that.” That’s right, she won’t have.
As for me, the first time I saw Titane it was mostly Alexia’s journey towards identity and a new family that lit me up; tonight, my attention was drawn more to the men and the dancing. The power of music to provide a confident release of emotion, and forget or ignore anything negative, is shown several times in the film, with tunes such as “Doing It to Death” by The Kills, “She’s Not There” by The Zombies and “Crap on My Mind” by Romanger. Alexia (the supremely impressive Agathe Rousselle) dances to provoke. The men (s)he works with dance to bond while coming down from an immense day. I’ll watch for a third time soon, and it wouldn’t surprise me if I find another reason to love Titane.
Another Music Recommendation: Young Heart Attack
Steve Swift: Only two albums. Two and done. In some ways, it couldn’t have been any other way for Young Heart Attack, straight outta Austin, Texas with bone shaking rock and some surprising melody. It seems fitting that the first album is called Mouthful Of Love and the second album Rock And Awe.
That’s enough in itself, but YHA (no, not the Youth Hostel Association)also provide huge riffs, that the bastard son of Jimmy Page and Ted Nugent would come up with, combined with sweet mid ’60s melodies. These two albums will tire you out.
Another TV Recommendation: Prodigal Son
Lor Gislason: I will preface this by saying I’m a huge Michael Sheen fan, especially for his portrayal of Aziraphale in Good Omens. So when Prodigal Son arrived on Canadian Netflix recently I was excited to jump into the series. It follows former FBI profiler Malcolm Bright as he helps the NYPD with gruesome and frankly outlandish crimes. The twist is that Malcolm’s father is Martin Whitly, a legendary serial killer known as The Surgeon, played by Michael Sheen.
Martin Whitly was arrested for killing over twenty people and these events had a profoundly traumatic effect on Malcolm. After some hesitation, he starts seeking advice from Martin (from whom he tries to distance himself by calling him Dr. Whitly) in a very obvious Silence of the Lambs style. It also feels heavily inspired by the new Hannibal series, with over-the-top murder scenes. So, in that sense it’s not exactly original, but it’s dumb fun. The other members of the Whitly family also appear, with their own demons. It’s nowhere near as serious as I expected and can be quite funny at times. Unfortunately the series was cancelled after two seasons, most likely due to the ongoing pandemic. Still, I’m enjoying it so far.
Another Music Recommendation: The Japanese House, Good At Falling
Daniel Siuba: Several weeks ago, “Saw You In A Dream” by The Japanese House came on Spotify while I was driving beside the ocean. I wasn’t familiar with their music, but after my first play through, I listened to this song at least four more times. The vocal melodies are complex, varied, and dynamic, and although the song is catchy, it never becomes overly repetitive or predictable. And this is true of the entire album Good At Falling, released in 2019. (Eventually, I discovered that “Saw You In A Dream” is actually a beefed up electronic version of the somber, final (mostly) acoustic track from Good At Falling, titled: “i saw you in a dream”).
Overall, Good At Falling is electronic and upbeat, but its lyrical content references obsessive thinking and perfectionism, and it often conveys a paralyzing sense of indecision, particularly regarding romantic love (“Can somebody tell me what I want? ’cause I keep changing my mind”). In terms of its production, this album embodies a kind of dreamy ’90s electro-folk-pop that never existed; it floats along and oscillates between evaporation and condensation like a misty daydream; its boundaries are mostly diffuse, but they sometimes solidify; it’s mercurial, but not erratic.
The emotional landscape of this album is melancholic and somber; it is filled with rivers of heartbreak and oceans of introspective yearning. It begins with “went to meet her,” a dreamy memory, and ends with a memory of a dream, “i saw you in a dream.” Overall, this album is very, very catchy; it’s riddled with addictive vocal and instrumental hooks, but it’s smart, so there’s enough depth to keep you diving in again and again.
What have you been into this week? Let us know in the comments!