I also need just to go on record here and say (1) the worst ten minutes of Hannibal display more tonal control and visual imagination than the best hour of almost any other drama you can name, even the great ones; and (2) it should have been nominated here; and (3) it doesn’t matter that it wasn’t nominated because 20 or 30 years down the road, young students of cinema and television will ask their elders if they watched Hannibal during its first run, and they’ll all lie and claim they watched every second, like people do today when young viewers ask about Twin Peaks.

Seitz: Let’s Talk About the Emmy Snubs — Vulture

Matt Seitz isn’t always right about stuff, but he’s very very right about this.

This is an internal memo ranking the full line of Marvel Comics titles in 1985 by subscription numbers. This would only be a small fraction of overall sales, which at this time would mainly be newsstand sales and a relatively small but growing chunk of direct market comic shop sales. This is interesting to me in a lot of ways, not the least of which is that this is what Marvel was publishing when I first started reading comics when I was five years old. It’s worth noting that when faced with the spinner rack at the drug store, I naturally gravitated to Star Wars and X-Men, which were the #3 and #4 titles here. Some thoughts/obvservations:
• Licensed properties accounted for a large chunk of the Marvel line, and even more of it if you factor in the unlisted Star Comics imprint, which included kids stuff like Care Bears, Fraggle Rock, Heathcliff, Muppet Babies, et al. These are all licensed: G.I. Joe, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Conan, Savage Sword of Conan, Conan the King, Transformers, Micronauts, ROM, Crystar, Doctor Who, Red Sonja.
• Note that Conan has three titles, and four if you count the related Red Sonja. That is unfathomable in today’s market. He was basically neck and neck with Spider-Man, Batman, and Superman in terms of market saturation.
• When I shared this on Twitter earlier some people were confused by the high numbers for Alpha Flight, which is understandable as that’s basically been a D-list property for Marvel since the late ’80s. But at this point in time, it’s one of two titles – Fantastic Four being the other – written and illustrated by John Byrne, and he was one of the industry’s biggest stars at the time. A year later, he’d bail on Marvel to go completely revamp Superman for DC Comics after Crisis On Infinite Earths.
• It’s probably also a bit “WTF” that Dr. Strange was in the top 20, but the series was illustrated mainly by Paul Smith in that year, not long after his brief but iconic run on Uncanny X-Men.
• In addition to Byrne being on Fantastic Four, there’s a few other classic runs going on at this moment: Walt Simonson is midway through his long run on Thor, Mark Gruenwald is writing Captain America, Denny O’Neil and David Mazzuchelli are on Daredevil, and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola is on Hulk at a fairly early point in his career.

• And of course, Uncanny X-Men is by Chris Claremont and John Romita Jr, and New Mutants is Claremont with Bill Sienkiewicz, who was a particularly radical and inventive artist. This is also the year in which Claremont did the classic Asgard story with Art Adams in the New Mutants special and X-Men annual. Barry Windsor-Smith also drew some X-Men, including the famous “Lifedeath” story where Storm deals with the loss of her powers.

• Parts of Secret Wars I and II were published in 1985 too, but weren’t available for subscriptions.

• Around this time, one of the higher-ups at Warner Communications approached Marvel about licensing the DC Universe characters because DC was struggling so much with sales. If you look at what DC is publishing at this time, it’s easy to see why – aside from the Paul Levitz/Steve Lightle run on Legion of Super Heroes, Alan Moore on Swamp Thing, and the Marv Wolfman/George Perez New Teen Titans, the DC line is just really lame and old-fashioned compared to what Marvel was doing. (Of course, Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns was just around the corner.)

This is an internal memo ranking the full line of Marvel Comics titles in 1985 by subscription numbers. This would only be a small fraction of overall sales, which at this time would mainly be newsstand sales and a relatively small but growing chunk of direct market comic shop sales. This is interesting to me in a lot of ways, not the least of which is that this is what Marvel was publishing when I first started reading comics when I was five years old. It’s worth noting that when faced with the spinner rack at the drug store, I naturally gravitated to Star Wars and X-Men, which were the #3 and #4 titles here.

Some thoughts/obvservations:

• Licensed properties accounted for a large chunk of the Marvel line, and even more of it if you factor in the unlisted Star Comics imprint, which included kids stuff like Care Bears, Fraggle Rock, Heathcliff, Muppet Babies, et al. These are all licensed: G.I. Joe, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Conan, Savage Sword of Conan, Conan the King, Transformers, Micronauts, ROM, Crystar, Doctor Who, Red Sonja.

• Note that Conan has three titles, and four if you count the related Red Sonja. That is unfathomable in today’s market. He was basically neck and neck with Spider-Man, Batman, and Superman in terms of market saturation.

• When I shared this on Twitter earlier some people were confused by the high numbers for Alpha Flight, which is understandable as that’s basically been a D-list property for Marvel since the late ’80s. But at this point in time, it’s one of two titles – Fantastic Four being the other – written and illustrated by John Byrne, and he was one of the industry’s biggest stars at the time. A year later, he’d bail on Marvel to go completely revamp Superman for DC Comics after Crisis On Infinite Earths.

• It’s probably also a bit “WTF” that Dr. Strange was in the top 20, but the series was illustrated mainly by Paul Smith in that year, not long after his brief but iconic run on Uncanny X-Men.

• In addition to Byrne being on Fantastic Four, there’s a few other classic runs going on at this moment: Walt Simonson is midway through his long run on Thor, Mark Gruenwald is writing Captain America, Denny O’Neil and David Mazzuchelli are on Daredevil, and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola is on Hulk at a fairly early point in his career.
• And of course, Uncanny X-Men is by Chris Claremont and John Romita Jr, and New Mutants is Claremont with Bill Sienkiewicz, who was a particularly radical and inventive artist. This is also the year in which Claremont did the classic Asgard story with Art Adams in the New Mutants special and X-Men annual. Barry Windsor-Smith also drew some X-Men, including the famous “Lifedeath” story where Storm deals with the loss of her powers.
• Parts of Secret Wars I and II were published in 1985 too, but weren’t available for subscriptions.
• Around this time, one of the higher-ups at Warner Communications approached Marvel about licensing the DC Universe characters because DC was struggling so much with sales. If you look at what DC is publishing at this time, it’s easy to see why – aside from the Paul Levitz/Steve Lightle run on Legion of Super Heroes, Alan Moore on Swamp Thing, and the Marv Wolfman/George Perez New Teen Titans, the DC line is just really lame and old-fashioned compared to what Marvel was doing. (Of course, Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns was just around the corner.)
In this way, she actually has a lot in common with Thom Yorke from Radiohead. Both artists have very specific sets of personal iconography – hers is like a Pinterest board full of glamorous images from fashion magazines and old movies; his is more like a wall full of paranoia-inducing news clippings. For both, evocative imagery and vaguely triggering language orbit expressions of raw, distressed emotion. Del Rey’s debut was uneven in quality partly because she overwhelmed her songs with signifiers, but she’s become a more sophisticated songwriter over time. Ultraviolence has more or less the same ideas and aesthetics as Born to Die, but the emphasis has shifted from setting a scene to conveying an air of exquisite, seductive sadness.

Lana Del Rey’s Truth Is In Her Music, Not Her Life Story

I wrote about Lana Del Rey’s new album.

How could anybody see Haim as anything other than completely new and exciting? To my ears they are totally brand new and alien. It’s like they took Amber Coffman from Dirty Projectors, with all her instrumental and vocal talents, cloned her twice and signed the results to a major label. The most notable thing I’ve noticed about Haim is this unique melodic thing. Their voices loooooove the 4th note (‘fa’) of the scale. They love to hit it, hold it and suspend it way longer than anyone else. The movement from the 4th note of the scale to the 3rd note — often deployed as a 4-3 suspension, Google for more — it’s full-fat, full-sugar. The richest dessert in tonal harmony. Stick with me through a couple of examples. The words that fall on the 4th-note are capitalized. ‘Falling’: “Don’t stop NO I’LL NEVER GIVE UP / AND I’LL NEVER LOOK BACK/ JUST hold your head up.” ‘The Wire’: ‘but I fumBLED IT / WHEN IT came down to the wire.’ Both songs have no 4s in their melodies until these coups de grâçe. They’d hit those 4-3 suspensions and my soul would soar, then a second later my heart would sink with the realization that these girls are better songwriters than I am ;_;
The role of Mystique deserves to be treated with the respect and careful casting that the role of a 150-year-old, venomously angry, lesbian shapeshifting assassin merits. She deserves a spinoff trilogy every bit as expensive as Wolverine Visits Japan. Jennifer Lawrence has a great jawline and seems like she’s a lot of fun at parties; she’s a good actress but she does not have Mystique running in her veins. I want to see a woman who looks like she’s committed murder during the act of sex wearing that blue paintsuit. I want a woman with falcon eyes and a crocodile heart, a balls-out weird woman, a woman who’s spent some time living underground. She deserves to be played by either Tilda Swinton, Eva Green, or Lena Headey, in that order.

My Stupid X-Men Opinions

I agree with Mallory Ortberg on this topic.

The Rolling Stones are making their fifth concert tour of the United States – a tour that will take them to 30 cities by the end of the month. The middling attendance [9,400] at a stadium that seats 14,000 was attributed by some to the heat. Others believed that interest in British rock groups is declining and that the scaling of tickets from $5 to $12.50 has simply become too much for young fans.
Here’s a wonderfully ironic excerpt from the New York Times’ review of The Rolling Stones’ show at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in Queens on July 2nd, 1966. FYI, if you adjust for inflation, the jump from $5 to $12.50 is roughly equivalent to a jump from $36 and $91 today.
Part of the reason Coldplay has so little competition outside of singer-songwriter dudes like Ed Sheeran and John Mayer is because romantic love songs are rarely valued within rock culture. Sometimes they’re derided as a sellout move, like how in the ’80s, hair metal power ballads by the likes of Poison and Bon Jovi were mocked by fans of harder, more self-consciously macho metal bands like Metallica and Anthrax who distanced themselves from love and sex entirely. Punks and indie rockers typically approach the notion of writing love songs with irony and cynicism; new wavers in the ’80s dressed up their love songs in dark drama and grave seriousness; and the alt-rockers of the ’90s — R.E.M., Nirvana, Bush, Stone Temple Pilots — mostly hid straightforward lyrics about love in songs that were otherwise made of nonsense words. This dismissive attitude about love songs is baked into two of rock’s most defining binaries — The Rolling Stones are seen as cooler than The Beatles because they have fewer love songs, and within The Beatles, John Lennon’s often cynical view of love is held up as evidence of his genius while Paul McCartney’s lovey dovey lyrics are widely considered to be his greatest flaw as an artist.

Don’t Hate Coldplay For Writing Great Love Songs

I wrote about Coldplay and rock culture’s bias against romantic love songs.

Owen Pallett
“The Riverbed”

It’s very hard to pick a single favorite on a record like In Conflict, but “The Riverbed” is a good summary of the record’s themes, and its arrangement is the most urgent – it just feels like a crushing emotional weight that feels like it could lift at any moment, but you’re just waiting around for that relief in the hope that it will actually come. I like the way Pallett’s words hit on ideas that will inevitably spark anxiety in some people – writer’s block, alcoholism, being alone and childless in your 30s – but the implication isn’t that these don’t necessarily need to be awful things, and they come out of choices you make for yourself that even when flawed are rooted in an attempt to do what’s right for yourself. The first two thirds of the song set up the anxiety and dread, and the final third offers comfort, mainly by introducing a positive form of doubt: What if you’re wrong, and you’re not a failure at all? What if it doesn’t matter as much as you think it does? Can you let go of your pride, if that’s what is really bringing you down?

(Originally posted on Fluxblog today, more about Owen Pallett here.)

It’s tempting once again to blame the dullness on Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton, a sometimes-capable producer whose reputation in recent years has carried the weight of an “Out of Order” sign on a bathroom door. Indeed, Burton’s reign of boredom continues here in typical fashion; his love for airlock-hatch atmospherics and stiff string-section motifs are intact, and even without the credits confirming it, you could probably guess that the orchestral touches of “Year in Review” were lifted from the score for an Italian 1970s sex comedy.

The Black Keys: Turn Blue | Album Reviews | Pitchfork

This paragraph by Larry Fitzmaurice really nails Danger Mouse and his amazing talent to make any music sound flat and lifeless.

Almost inevitably, this new decade will bring us a large crop of bands recycling ’90s guitar rock. Of all the various strains of ’90s rock, I think the most quintessential and commercial is “alt-rock,” an aesthetic I think is best connected to the bands on the DGC label — Nirvana, Weezer, Hole, Elastica, Sloan, Sonic Youth, Teenage Fanclub, Veruca Salt — as well as other major label acts like Bush who were running with a similar formula and aesthetic. But what is that formula? What is that aesthetic? I think “Number One Blind” is a very good answer to those questions. In my mind, this song is a perfect example of the archetype, and just hearing it takes me back to the era of actually-pretty-great mainstream rock radio and suburban malls full of alterna-teens.

I’ll break it down for you.

* Gently rolling, thick bass line. Kim Deal has so much to answer for, and even the worst of it is pretty decent. (Like, say, “Good” by Better Than Ezra.) I think Krist Novoselic’s approximation of Deal’s style was itself extremely influential. I would argue that even ahead of fuzzy guitar tone, this is the most essential and recognizable element of ’90s alt-rock, especially when contrasted with a simple, pretty guitar figure as it is on the verse of “Number One Blind.”

* Strict verse/chorus/verse construction. I find that archetypal ’90s alt-rock very seldom includes pre-choruses, and bridges are generally quite brief. The bridge in “Number One Blind” takes us from a chorus into a solo, but it’s not necessary — a lot of songs in the subgenre will just slam a solo between choruses, or skip the solo entirely.

* Verses are mellow; choruses are loud. Duh! You stomp on your fuzz pedal when it’s time for the chorus. ’90s rock radio was basically this steady ebb and tide of soft verses and loud choruses. Black Francis didn’t invent this, but I think pretty much all of this music is directly traceable to the Pixies catalog.

* The solo break is very short. The solo is always melodic, but the playing is never too smooth or overly professional. These are mainly to add some touch of melodic flourish and to break up the rigid grid of the song’s construction for a few seconds.

* The melodies are simple. Okay, but not so much that it’s totally sing-song.

* The vocals have an arch quality. This depends on the character of the frontperson, but there’s pretty much always some touch of irony and bitterness in the tone.

* Obscure title and/or lyrical references. The chorus — “Levolor, which of us is blind?” is a play on words — blindness, as in obliviousness, and Levolor, as in the manufacturer of window blinds. There’s a metaphor in here, but it’s not fully formed, which is pretty much the way things go in this style. It’s more about suggesting an idea and an image rather that explicating it. Bonus points for the specific reference to Levolor, which has some kind of nostalgic quality despite being a brand that still exists.

(Originally posted on Fluxblog 10/14/2010)

Ageism is a real thing. I had to get my head around how am I going to — in the music industry, being in front of the camera at 50, it’s not as if we — women — are seen as Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt where we’re just coming into our hotness. They’re leading men! There are leading women that are around my age but it’s just starting to happen. You’re just starting to see that happen in the movie industry. But coming to a rock concert — [women] can’t be doing granny rock. We’re singing about emotions, we’re singing about sexuality, we’re singing about all these things. Whereas roles for Helen Mirren, who is the hottest thing I’ve ever seen — try and find her equivalent in rock and roll. We are having to carve that out for ourselves because you don’t go see some of my contemporaries, you don’t go see the Chilies [Red Hot Chili Peppers] and think They need to be doing grandpa rock. No! They’re virile men who are sensual and they can sing about anything. Our culture doesn’t see it that way [for women]. There are certain things, if you start singing about them — if you listen to the young girls, I hear them talk, “Oh! She looks desperate! That’s so desperate!” Whether you’re in your 20’s looking desperate or you’re in your 50’s looking desperate — desperate is desperate. But you don’t hear them say that about the guys

Tori Amos On Taylor Swift, Fame And Embracing Menopause

This quote from Tori Amos is so, so, so right on. I hope she can pull this off.