The Last Hurrahs of Obsolete Formats

formats

The last North American releases from major studios for obsolete formats:

  • Betamax: Mission: Impossible (1996)
  • Laserdisc: Bringing Out the Dead (1999)
  • VHS: A History of Violence (2006)

We were watching the 1996 “Mission: Impossible” movie when I stumbled across the first tidbit of information and got curious about other obsoleted formats. This is what I found.

While Betamax and Laserdisc are now complete relics, VHS is (apparently) still a popular format for low-budget slasher flicks. That “M: I” came out so late seems a bit mind boggling, but it’s mentioned in the trivia page for that film on IMDB. Further digging was fairly inconclusive but for one post I found that claimed “only 25 copies were produced and to this day Paramount will deny they ever made them.” Curious.

On another note, “M:I” does not hold up that well, particularly from a technological standpoint. On the one hand, they have Google glass tech that can transmit video halfway around the world. They have experimental 686 processors with artificial intelligence RISC sub processors (which, at least the sentence makes sense). But the critical NOC list that the plot hinges on sits on a 3.5″ floppy. It feels anachronistic in its own movie.

“A History of Violence”, on the other hand, is a great movie and does hold up well. Everything from the eerie crawling opening shot across the desert motel, to the gradual reveal of Tom’s true past, to great performances across the board. It’s one of the most interesting comic book adaptations to date. (Sadly, though, when I think of this cross-section of Viggo Mortenson, Ed Harris, and David Cronenberg, I get bummed that sequels to both “Eastern Promises” and “Appaloosa” sound increasingly unlikely.)

I haven’t seen “Bringing Out the Dead” since it was in the theater. I remember it being an intense movie, and it’s Scorsese. I’ve been meaning to get back to it for a while. I’ll pass on trying to find the laserdisc version, though, as it’s probably streaming on Netflix these days.

The story with music is a little more tricky to track down. The last 8-track is disputed but generally agreed upon to be “Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits”. Vinyl, of course, still enjoys a plethora of major releases while cassettes, although not generally distributed by major labels these days, has seen a renaissance among independent labels; the last major cassette release is hard to determine.

Add comment February 10th, 2014

A Merry Xmas Playlist

A Christmas List!

I put this together for a little Christmas get-together that we had earlier in the month where I was tasked with finding a thematically appropriate playlist. I searched far and wide for a largely nonconventional collection of holiday songs. So, interspersed with a couple of classic takes (like Dean Martin), we venture here into jazz, rap, rock, indie, and a couple of comedy tracks as well.

The Tom Waits track appears here twice, once as his own version and once as Neko Case’s cover version, because they are both excellent in their own way.

Name Artist Album
1 Xmastime Disappointer  
2 Happy Xmas (War Is Over) John Lennon Single
3 Rock N Roll Santa Yo La Tengo Merry Christmas From Yo La Tengo
4 Christmas 1979 MBE Archive from 1959
5 Christmas is Coming Soon Blitzen Trapper ?
6 It’s Snowing On My Piano Bugge Wesseltoft It’s Snowing On My Piano
7 Santa Claus Is Coming To Town X Merry Xmas from X
8 Jesus The Mexican Boy Iron & Wine EP
9 Up On The Housetop Paul Slocum The 8 Bits of Christmas
10 No Christmas While I’m Talking The Walkmen Bows and Arrows
11 Baby, It’s Cold Outside Dean Martin Christmas With the Rat Pack
12 Christmas Tree on Fire Holly Golightly A Damaged Christmas Gift To You
13 Little Drummer Boy Nicole Atkins Stereogum Xmas 2011
14 The Blizzard Camera Obscura Single
15 Twinkle (Little Christmas Lights) JD McPherson Single
16 Santa’s Got A Bag of Soul Soul Saints Orchestra In The Christmas Groove
17 Alan Parsons In A Winter Wonderland Grandaddy It’s A Cool Cool Christmas
18 A Christmas Carol Tom Lehrer More of Tom Lehrer
19 Christmas In Hollis Run DMC Single
20 Linus & Lucy Vince Guaraldi Trio A Charlie Brown Christmas
21 Let it Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! The Fab Four Hark! (Xmas Songs in a Beatles Style)
22 It Doesn’t Often Snow At Christmas Pet Shop Boys Christmas EP
23 Sexy Christmas Baby Mine Morphine Opium (bootleg)
24 Jingle Bells X Merry Xmas from X
25 Merry X-Mas Quasi When The Going Gets Dark
26 Blue Christmas Johnny Cash Christmas With Johnny Cash
27 Soulful Christmas James Brown James Brown’s Funky Christmas
28 Dick in a Box (feat. Justin Timberlake) The Lonely Island Incredibad
29 Father Sgt. Christmas Card Guided By Voices Universal Truths and Cycles
30 Frosty The Snowman Fiona Apple Winter Songs
31 Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis Neko Case New Coat of Paint – Songs of Tom Waits
32 Silent Night The Kills Stereogum Xmas 2011
33 Father Christmas The Kinks Single
34 Jesus Christ Was An Only Child Modest Mouse The Lonesome Crowded West
35 Fairytale of New York The Pogues Single
36 Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis Tom Waits Used Songs (1973-1980)

Add comment December 22nd, 2013

Top 10 Albums of 2012

Yes, that says 2012. It was just not a great year for albums, to me. I had contemplated and scrapped a list of my tops for the year last December or January before I thought: maybe I will just wait. And then maybe I’ll get back to it and find that there were albums there all along that I didn’t discover until later, which is a thing that happens to me all the time.

But that didn’t happen either. Very few of the albums that I liked songs from came together as a whole. And albums from artists that I generally like came out that year, too, but they largely felt lackluster. A couple of gems made the cut, though:

1.) Mynabirds – Generals

“I’d give it all for a legacy of love”

Generals (video)

I’ve been a fan of Laura Burhenn for a while. The short-lived Georgie James band showed a lot of promise. When she cropped back up on her own with The Mynabirds debut, I was on board for that even if that initial album was a lot more Dusty Springfield than my tastes usually run. I still liked it well enough on its own merits to check out the followup. In a rare show of restraint, I waited until the advance single arrived on Record Store Day to check out the first cut, the title track “Generals”. Kids, it kind of blew my mind. It was not was I was expecting from this band: it stomps, it revels, it rebels, and it’s a call to arms.

I pre-ordered the album the next day and it did not disappoint. There are few albums in a given year— even in this very list— that I can listen to front-to-back, over and over, and really enjoy. Even fewer, perhaps, that I can drop into the laps of almost anyone else I know and tell them with confidence that they will enjoy it. And even here in late 2013, it holds up greatly.

2.) Tame Impala – Lonerism

“It feels like I only go backwards, baby / Every part of me says go ahead”

Psychedelic rock: it can be amazing or awful. In many ways, this Australian band’s sophomore effort reminds me a lot of local Stumptown heroes Unknown Mortal Orchestra but eschewing the level of sheer insanity for a more heartfelt approach. More Waters and less Syd, in a way, but the end result is still an album that a longtime Pink Floyd fan like me can definitely appreciate.

It’s a very front-to-back listenable album but there are definitely tracks that stand out on my first few passes through. “Elephant” was the first on that I’d heard— on XMU— and my interest was sufficiently piqued to hunt down the rest of the album. Not long thereafter, “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” dropped heavily into my rotation as well as on the radio’s. And the cuts just go deeper from there.

3.) Summer Girlfriends – Shockwaves

“So just sit tight, walk right, aim high”

It’s easy enough to lump femaie-fronted bands of a certain lo-fi indie pop aesthetic into the same umbrella because there have certainly been a lot of entries in this nascent genre. Dum Dum Girls certainly lead the pack (and they have a new album in 2014 that I’m definitely looking forward to) but there a number of others in this vein that readily come to mind: Best Coast, Frankie Rose, Coasting, and Vivian Girls, among others, embody the aesthetic. But if the sound has a lot of commonality, it’s the songwriting that sets the bands apart.

Chicago’s Summer Girlfriends’ debut excels in this department with high-concept song titles like “PG-13 Sex Scene” and “Goth Beach Party” that deliver in hook-laden execution. My favorite track to date opens the b-side of the record (if you’re listening to it that way), the excellent “Balloon Rooms”. It’s held up well despite, or maybe because, being no more than it pretends to be. The bubblegum pink vinyl is a nice touch, too.

The Rest

Not to disparage these albums, as they’re all pretty solid, but they didn’t have the same je ne sais quo is for me.

  1. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – Meat & Bone
  2. Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
  3. Kelly Hogan – I Like To Keep Myself In Pain
  4. Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra – Theatre Is Evil
  5. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel…
  6. Dinosaur Jr. – I Bet On Sky
  7. Regina Spektor – What We Saw from the Cheap Seats


Honorable Mention: JD McPherson – Signs & Signifiers

Technically, this album came out in 2010, hence the Honorable Mention status, but it got a major label rerelease in 2012 and so it was new to me and many others as well. I stumbled across this gem on a fateful Sunday in the springtime when I was in a serious need of something new to listen to. It was the cover initially that drew me in on the shelves at Jackpot: McPherson clad in denim and seated on a couch in a wood paneled room, a book on Japanese in one hand, the other hand pressed against his face in anguished repose, a wood-bodied electric guitar at his side. Then there was the NPR pull quote, “Engineered to restore your faith in rock and roll.” I needed faith restored in something, it had been a long winter with a healthy dose of soul searching.

I took it up to the counter and the Jackpot clerk asked me, “Have you heard this?”

No, I said, but it looked interesting. He effusively fawned over the album for a minute or two, ending with, “I hope I didn’t oversell it!” I was getting it anyway and I told him that I would soon find out for myself. I got home and accidentally put on the B-side first (the track “Dimes and Nickels”) and was immediately impressed. McPherson’s 50′s rock influences are worn on his sleeve from the composition to the recording techniques and the result is a record that at once feels new and old, a timeless rocker from a forgotten era.

Add comment December 2nd, 2013

Elephantitis

Thanksgiving isn’t really a song-inspiring holiday. I’ve got John Lennon’s “Cold Turkey” and Clutch’s “Wishbone”, but the well runs dry pretty quick after that. So, how about an oddly specific elephant themed mix?

In one of my favorite dreams that I ever had, I was an elephant. Good times. Whether or not you’ve ever had an elephant dream, here’s a short playlist all about these dudes. Short because, there aren’t a million elephant songs to choose from and we’re going for quality, here, people. And as it turns out, elephant songs are largely pretty mellow.

Name Artist Album
1 Elephant Gun Beirut Lon Gisland
2 Elephant Tame Impala Lonerism
3 Elephants Them Crooked Vultures Them Crooked Vultures
4 Elephant 20 Minute Loop Decline of Day
5 Red Elephant Born Ruffians Red Yellow & Blue
6 White Elephant Coat School of Seven Bells Alpinisms
7 How to Make A Baby Elephant Walk Yo La Tengo Summer Sun
8 Baby Elephant Walk Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet Music for Pets
9 The Elephant Riders Clutch The Elephant Riders
10 Robot Elephant’s Tears Yuka Honda Heart Chamber Phantom
11 17 Pink Sugar Elephants Mates of State Crushes (The Covers Mixtape)
12 Pink Elephant Cherry Poppin’ Daddies  
13 Effervescing Elephant Syd Barrett Opel

No Pavement this time! The word ‘elephant’ looks weird to me now.

Add comment November 27th, 2013

Theme Mix Saturday – A Grave Endeavor

This list was birthed out of accidental inspiration– having Feist’s “Graveyard” pop up on shuffle just after hearing “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”. It being October, and with the rain getting its first firm foothold in the Pacific Northwest this week, replete with the requisite malaise and the cold seeping into my bones even as I type this, I figured this was as good a time as any for this grim theme.

Name Artist Album YouTube
1 Dig My Grave They Might Be Giants Apollo 18 Yes
2 Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings Father John Misty Fear Fun Yes
3 A Certain Cemetery Pretty Girls Make Graves The New Romance No
4 Nail In My Coffin The Kills Blood Pressures Yes
5 Dig Your Own Grave Heavenly P.U.N.K. Girl Yes
6 Under A Cloud Shaped Like A Tomb Agesandages Alright You Restless Yes
7 Tombstone Blues Bob Dylan Highway 61 Revisited Yes
8 Hope Everything Falls Into Place Before I Fall Into A Grave Knight School Revenger No
9 Grave Architecture Pavement Wowee Zowee Yes
10 Graveyard Feist Metals Yes
11 Coffins Explode Into Colors Quilts Yes
12 Found Love In A Graveyard Veronica Falls Found Love In A Graveyard Yes
13 How’s The Grave Jaill That’s How We Burn Yes
14 Graveyard Drug Party Thee Oh Sees The Master’s Bedroom Is Worth Spending A Night In Yes
15 Funeral Song Sleater-Kinney One Beat Yes
16 Do Not Quietly Unto Your Grave Morphine Good Yes
17 Lay Some Flowers On My Grave Blind Willie McTell Yes

*Of course I included “Grave Architecture”. Someday I may make a list and omit the obvious Pavement song but no promises.

Add comment October 13th, 2012

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