Thursday, August 1, 2013

Diary of an Upstairs Neighbor

Sunday, 5:58 a.m.
Oh, Good Lord, I overslept again! Hate when that happens. I feel like I've wasted the whole day. And just look at this place. What a mess. But, what can I expect? It's been a whole 10 hours since I last vacuumed for most of the day. Better get to work quick, since I've got my at-home Stomping class at 9:00 and then I have to lay on the floor and groan for awhile. Ugh - so much to do!

Sunday, 7:32 a.m.
It was a hell of a job getting the kids up this morning. They sure know how to sleep. I have a secret weapon, though. All I had to do was remind Jamie and Brad that every minute they stay in bed is a minute they don't get to run around screaming at the top of their lungs. Plus, Brad has to practice that one part of Joplin's "The Entertainer" at least 140 more times if he's going to be ready for his piano recital next week.

Sunday, 10:10 a.m.
Jocelyn called. The poor thing, she's had such a rough time with Corey. She deserves so much better than him. I'm a good friend, though. I didn't try to offer advice. She just wanted to get some things off her chest, so I only responded with "Oh my God!" and "Seriously." Don't worry, Diary, I made sure to speak loud enough so she could tell I really care. Oh, and Stomping class was great today. We learned a new move: rhythmic floor pounding!

Sunday, 1:30 p.m.
Connor is going out with his friends to watch some football game. I don't care about football! Luckily, I've got some work to keep me occupied. There are a dozen pieces of art around this place that I need to rehang. I hung them in separate places yesterday and the day before, but I just don't like the layout yet! I'm also rebuilding that old wooden chair using an old tablesaw. I might have to ask Connor to bang in some of these nails when he gets home. I've been banging them and banging them but I just can't get them to go in the right way. Oh no, the kids stopped screaming. I wonder if anything is wrong. Let me go find out, Diary.


Nothing to worry about! They were just in the living room punching the wall as hard as they could. I bet they grow up to be big and strong!

Sunday, 5:15 p.m.
What a treat! Connor met these really interesting guys at the bar. They're an eight-piece percussion and french horn band visiting from Malawi. They've been sleeping in a hostel, of all places! I told them that since they're so nice, and their music is so cacophonous and avant-garde that they might as well stay with us for a few nights. They warned me that sometimes they practice late into the night, but I don't mind. If anything, it will show Brad what being a real grown-up musician is all about.

Sunday, 9:28 p.m.
I'm so tired, Diary, but after spending the day woodworking, ice sculpting, tap dancing, and slaughtering 40 chickens, this place is a mess. It's nothing that another four hours of vacuuming won't fix, though! What's that noise? Oh, it's just the downstairs neighbor. Looks like he's coming home with some Trader Joe's bags. Is that two bottles of whiskey in the bag? I don't know about this guy, Diary. Some people are just weirdos.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Purge

The central conceit in The Purge is that humans are very much not like humans. In this world, we are all maniacal killers at heart, and would murder indiscriminately, men and women alike, if only it was socially acceptable. This, of course, is not true. There are sociopaths and killers, sure. But, the reason incidents like Aurora and Sandy Hook shake us so fundamentally is that they confront our very ideas of humanity, that most of us are decent enough people just trying to get by, and that even the rude and inconsiderate among us are still not capable of such atrocities that occurred in those shootings.

In The Purge, however, we are all James Holmes and Adam Lanza. Oh, if only murder were legal, just for 12 hours! I would get it out of my system then and be myself again, surely. All this is to say that the film has a mountain to climb right off the bat. It attempts to get us on board by presenting us a family that we would identify with. The Sandins are well-off and live in an affluent community somewhere in America in the year 2022. James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) sells home security systems that are only used during the Purge, the 12 hours during the year when anything is legal. I'd give more details about the family, but the film forgot to provide them. So much for giving the audience something to identify with!

Lena Headey plays the mother, Mary Sandin. She is a mother and loves her kids and husband and that's pretty much it. She's scared when she needs to be scared and motherly when the script needs that as well. The two kids, Charlie and Zoe Sandin, are generally disgruntled teenagers. Charlie keeps track of his heart rate for some reason and Zoe wishes her ambiguously older boyfriend could be a more open part of her life. No matter.

The day of the Purge, James Sandin has learned that he's the top-seller of security systems in the district and wishes his neighbors a "safe night" on his way home. Most of his neighbors have bought the security system as well, and they all seem ready to hunker down for the long 12 hours when, apparently, 90% of Americans decide to go and kill each other. I'm not exaggerating that this is what the Purge is all about. An opening sequence shows us gun murder after gun murder, all on security footage. We are reminded by a television doctor that it is in our very nature to kill each other, and that this annual practice serves as a "release" for these murderous instincts, bestowed upon us by the "New Founding Fathers." Do people rob banks during the purge? Score drugs? Run over the border from Mexico? Doesn't look like it. The world The Purge inhabits is full of demented thugs, except for the Sandins.

Oh, they openly support the Purge, sure, but their children can tell that they have moral issues with it. After all, if they support it, why don't they go out and kill people every year? Unlike successful films about a dystopian future, the game of The Purge is so unreasonable as to be almost impossible to represent in humanity. Though it involves supernatural connections, we can at least believe that pre-crime, as presented in Minority Report, would be acceptable to a large section of the American population. If it was possible to see the future, of course we would want to prevent murders before they happen! The ingenuity of that film is nowhere here. It is merely a setup for disgusting terrorism and carnage.

The carnage begins shortly after "lockdown." The Sandins are behind their metal walls, James and Mary are having some wine, Zoe has gone off to sulk, and Charlie sits in his father's security suite, watching the neighborhood through a series of cameras. A black man runs down the street, screaming for help, looking for safe haven from an angry mob that's after him. Charlie, poor sympathetic Charlie, disarms the security system to let the man in. Once James sees this and rushes to his son, the black man (and I call him that because he is the only one in the film) disappears somewhere in the giant home. Oh, and Zoe's boyfriend is mad that they can't openly date, so he tries to kill James. Whatever.

The mob chasing the bloody stranger is a group of 20 or so masked prep school kids. (Why are they masked if this is all legal? Probably because director James DeMonaco thought it would look scary.) The only unmasked mob member is the "Polite Stranger," as he is credited, played by Rhys Wakefield. He explains to the security camera (to which we are fortunately listening), that the man they are harboring is a "homeless swine" and that he must be released to them in short order. If they don't comply, the mob has some "equipment" on the way that will help them break in and kill not only the swine, but the Sandins as well.

Thus begins a solid 45 minutes of people walking slowly down dark hallways. Occasionally something jumps out and the non-diagetic sound informs us that this is meant to be scary. Why are all the hallways dark? Because Rhys Wakefield has decided to cut the house's electricity, despite being repeatedly told by James that the homeless man is somewhere in the house and they are looking for him. Logic be damned, says DeMonaco! We need dark hallways in which our vacant characters will walk slowly, to be frightened when things jump out at them!

We are plagued by logistical questions throughout The Purge. If this angry mob are normal citizens 364 days a year, and they murder just to get it out of their systems, will one helpless man really be enough for them? Would they not be better served just leaving the gated community and stopping at the closest Denny's? With the arsenal these guys are carrying, they could take out dozens of people in a matter of minutes.

Oh! Oh! And I haven't even started talking about the flaws in the security system yet. This is truly amazing. After Wakefield informs the Sandins that they have equipment on the way to break into their house, Mary seeks reassurance from her husband. "They can't get in here, right?"

James Sandin's response is an inexplicable mess about how no security system is perfect and that they could tunnel in or get a battering ram, and on and on. What are we to make of this? Is this a comment on how none of us, with all of our laws and safety precautions, are ever truly safe? Or, is it just a poorly written monologue? The social commentary in The Purge is so haphazard that I'm not sure DeMonaco really means anything at all. The concept resembles nothing that exists in our current lives, that the metaphor is lost on me. I would really like to see a film, even a short film, that deals with this concept as it might exist in reality. DeMonaco seems to think that his characters don't need to act like actual human beings and that this is okay. Even in the most outlandish of futures, good characters do what we might really do in their position. Harrison Ford in Blade Runner, Tom Cruise in Minority Report, Clive Owen in Children of Men.

The Purge has no time for such trivialities. Its dark hallways lead to its cruel and gruesome conclusion. This is not a fun movie, it is not a thoughtful movie, it is not a scary movie. Much like the Purge itself, I see no reason for it to exist.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

THE OAK AND THE SEQUOIA by Jonathan Daniel Harris

Hi there. In today's corporate-driven entertainment industry, it's getting harder and harder for an independent auteur to achieve his dream of making a feature film. Even someone like me, a 20-year veteran of stage and screen, has to make painful artistic compromises in order to achieve his vision.

What are you talking about, Jonathan? I'll tell you. I've written a script called The Oak and the Sequoia. It's a gothic love story spanning four centuries and five locations — from a native Arawak village at the dawn of the American colonies to a settlement on the moon of Deimos in the year 2240. This script was a 174-page struggle that took up 16 months of my life. It has been my passion since the idea came to me in a dream while I vacationed in Grenada in 2010. Its worn pages have seen the birth of my daughter, Rose, and the end of what I thought was a beautiful marriage.

To show you I'm serious, here's the first page of the script:

This film, this vision, is what I need your help to make.

You see, one has the benefit of a spotlight after several nationally-televised commercials and a brief appearance on one of television's most successful sitcoms. This notoriety afforded me the opportunity to meet with some of Hollywood's most successful producers and influential influencers. They all wanted to make this film. Unfortunately, blending the Hollywood studio system with an auteur's vision is like adding salt water to a fine Beaujolais. No sooner did I meet with these respected "money-men" then I was asked to betray my values and mangle my screenplay the way a butcher chops a fine cut of grass-fed Kobe.
  • "Could you remove the 14-page animated sequence starring TV legend Jamie Farr?"
  • "Why do all of the characters express a hatred of the Dutch?"
  • "Remove the Dothraki scenes. Those are trademarked characters."
No! I will not sacrifice my integrity to make a quick buck and turn my film into a mere 2 1/2 hour fluff piece. Do I look like Gerard Fucking Butler to you?

I will make this film my way. And you, all of you, my amazing fans who've been waiting these last 22 years for me to recapture the screen, are the ones who will help me do it.

I'm planning to kickstart The Oak and the Sequoia (hereafter, TOATS), and raise the necessary $12.4 million with your help. When you donate, I'll get to a) make the film I've always envisioned, b) prove to myself that I'm loved by a wide audience, and c) keep all of my own money, of which there is plenty.

Here's what you'll get when you donate!

$10 or more
PRODUCTION DIARY // This will contain daily updates on the film's production written by an unpaid intern. *Note: this production diary will not contain any spoilers on the film itself, as the unpaid intern will not be allowed to read the script or be on set during shooting days.

$25 or more
YOU GET TO BE AN UNPAID INTERN // I like a double macchiato with lowfat milk. Because, a little fat is ok, right?

$50 or more
 JONATHAN'S SOUNDTRACK // I'm not sure what top indie pop songs will be in the film yet, but if you donate at least $50, I'll send weekly updates in the form of a Spotify playlist. Already itching to see what music I think you should like? Here's a classic album from Mr. Neil Young. He's real bluesy!

$100 or more
SNAPCHAT // We can be Snapchat buddies. You can't Snapchat me. I can only Snapchat you. If you Snapchat me your money will be refunded and Snapchat privileges will be revoked.

$500 or more
DVD OR BLU-RAY // I will give you a DVD or Blu-ray, not of TOATS, but of a film of my choosing. Today's selection is Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire.

$1,000 or more
KEY GRIP // If you donate at this highest level, you will be allowed on the set of TOATS, for the purpose of carrying stuff from one side of the set to another. (unpaid)

Thank you for reading this far. After seeing the great successes of other artists, I knew going directly to you, the fans, would be the best way to make this famous multi-millionaire's dream come true. Thank you for joining me on this journey.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Tragedies Come in Many Forms

I went through the same reaction process as most of us on Friday — and by most of us, I mean Americans who didn't personally know anybody at Sandy Hook Elementary School or in the community of Newtown, Conn. — a mixture of grief and anguish and disbelief. I asked the same questions my coworkers asked: How do these things keep happening? Why children? What can we do about it? My thoughts moved, dementedly, to the mindset of the killer. What kind of person does one have to be to perform such brutal acts?

By comparison, I thought of all the people that I know that I consider genuinely "bad people." There aren't many, but I know a few. These are bad people because they have no respect for others and they intentionally hurt others' feelings for their own arrogant sense of wellbeing. These bad people would not do what Adam Lanza did on Friday, December 14. Not in a million years.

So how do we identify those that are at-risk of causing great harm without becoming increasingly paranoid, resorting to witch hunts of the mentally ill? The greater question, I now think, is should we?

Let's envision an alternate reality at the moment? Let's imagine that we successfully identified the key elements that caused Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris to enter Columbine High School with assault weapons in 1999. Let's assume that we found a way to address those issues — we banned assault rifles, we exponentially increased funding to mental health services, especially for young people. Whatever it is. And let's imagine that we haven't had a mass shooting since.

No Virginia Tech. No Aurora Movie Theater. No Fort Hood. No Sandy Hook Elementary.

We wouldn't know it, of course, but we'd see a decade and a half gone by without one of these tragic incidents. And we'd have saved over 250 lives.

If that number seems low, that's because it is. By comparison, it's lower than the number of Americans who die by taking legally-obtained prescription drugs every day. It's about twice the number of Americans who die every day in car accidents. You get my point.

This is not to say that mass shootings are not a problem. Indeed, they are probably among the most frightening issues we face in the U.S., specifically because they happen so suddenly and are so unpredictable. But, we should recognize that our fear and our dread is why we react the way we do, why we feel the urgent need to take action. We should not pretend that incidents like Sandy Hook are comparable in number to the deaths U.S. families see every day because of cancer, heart disease, medical accidents, poverty and car crashes.

These problems, as deadly and pervasive as they are, happen gradually, and are expected. As Heath Ledger's Joker said in The Dark Knight, "Nobody panics when things go according to plan. Even if the plan is horrifying." Behavioral psychologists will recognize the human ability to fear a mass shooting more than a fatal car accident, even when one is far more likely than the other. If I die in a car crash, my friends and family will no doubt find it tragic, but it will, at least, be "part of the plan." It will be something that happens often, and so not all that surprising.

The Sandy Hook incident is something else entirely. It is senseless, destructive, and has made the entire nation a giant congregation of temporary nihilists. That is why we want to prevent future atrocities so much. That is why the media focuses so much energy on it. It's because it tears us apart to our very cores. It affects the nation mentally in a way that no number of cancer deaths could equal. It makes us doubt the very society we inhabit.

I'm of the mind that we can never eliminate these events from taking place. We can ban assault weapons and provide better mental health and preventative treatment, and we should. But, there are over 300 million of us. People just snap sometimes. It's seemingly random and completely arbitrary. And it will happen again.

What I want is for us to recognize our own limits, recognize that the energy we put into our Sandy Hook response can be utilized to prevent real suffering in a host of other areas. All of us who are now donating to the affected families or sending letters of comfort to the community should remember this feeling every time we read another statistic like the ones I linked to above. The next time you read that preventable medical errors are responsible for 200,000 U.S. deaths every year, divide that by 26 and realize that it's the equivalent of 21 Sandy Hooks every single day.

Fortunately, many of these every day, "part of the plan" crises are preventable. If the grief we feel right now were harnessed for preventable issues across the whole year, imagine what we could accomplish, and the lives we would save.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Spotify vs. MOG

Spotify was pretty much the best thing to happen to me in 2011. It allowed me to listen to music I'd always heard about but never had the chance to check out, and opened up a huge music library to me at work so that I no longer had to drag dozens of CDs into the office (or spend time at home dragging and dropping hundreds of files onto a thumb drive).

Once I upgraded to an iPhone, I was able to make playlists on Spotify that I could listen to at the gym or in my car. For only $9.99 a month, I was essentially able to eliminate the need to purchase music independently at record stores or on iTunes or Amazon. While I do lament the loss of the "record-buying experience," we are undeniably living in an age when content, especially music, is freely acquired and shared. A service like Spotify can work with artists to make the process mutually profitable, and eliminate the need for major companies, in the form of labels, to tell the consumer what they should like.

As a general audiophile myself, however, I will always appreciate going to a record store and purchasing albums on CD and vinyl, but I realize this is not something most people will continue to do. The industry and artists will adapt, I have no doubt.

Once I became fully immersed in Spotify and started telling everyone around me how it had changed my life, I began seeing notices on Facebook about so-and-so listening to music on MOG, and tech writers began promoting it as the best music-streaming service available. I decided to sign up for a two-week free trial and make my own decision. Though many other bloggers have done this review, I am going to come at it from my point-of-view as someone who loves music and listens to it in multiple settings. I've made my decision based on several criteria, which I will detail below, and attempt to explain why I am sticking with Spotify as my music service of choice. I'll be comparing the premium accounts of both services.

Criterion #1: Music Library

Both MOG and Spotify have vast catalogues. MOG advertises that it has 14 million songs in its library, while Spotify simply says "millions and millions" on its website, though Slate says that Spotify held 15 million tracks as of July 2011, and they say they add 10,000 new songs every day. Either way, both libraries are incredibly vast and include almost everything you could want. I emphasize "almost" because, despite having enough music that it would take someone 80 years to listen to it all back-to-back, there were still artists and songs that are not available on either.

In fact, one of the main reasons I wanted to check out MOG is to see if there were artists available there that I could not find on Spotify. Sure enough, MOG does have certain major artists that Spotify does not, including Bob Dylan and Pink Floyd. That being said, I own every Bob Dylan record already, so those type of distinctions are of little concern to me. Neither service currently has Drag City artists (so, no Will Oldham or Joanna Newsom), and they both have a problem with De La Soul as well, apparently.

I've read that MOG has a better catalog of classical music than does Spotify. Undoubtedly, individual listeners will have differing opinions on this matter based on their tastes. For me, both have immense libraries that I could never get through in a lifetime, so this one is a tie.

Advantage: Push.

Criterion #2: Online Experience

Spotify is available in a desktop application and its main draw is speed and ease of organizing playlists. I have dozens of playlists in Spotify, some of them to store albums, others of mixes that I've created for fun. These mixes can be private or published for other Spotify users to subscribe to. This is a huge benefit, as even online publications such as Pitchfork can make public playlists of their Best Songs of 2011, for example. I can subscribe to this playlist, listen to it anywhere, and see who else has also subscribed. I'm amazed at some of the great music I've discovered by clicking through the playlists of others.

MOG's primary mode is within the browser, but it's pretty sub-par, so I'll focus my attention on their desktop application. (The problem with the browser mode is that I can't pause and play from my keyboard as I can with a desktop app, and I have to do that fairly often at work.) MOG's desktop app is preferable, as it doesn't slow down as the browser player does when you're working on other things. (Listening to MOG at work while playing Words With Friends is a no-go...not that I do that.)

The problem with MOG's experience is that you can only play from the "Play Queue" and searching for other music, you'll often click over and start playing something else when you didn't mean to. In MOG, I'm not even sure why playlists exist, because you can't play from them. I've tried many times, and you have to put all your music in a play queue before it will play. On Spotify, I can jump to any playlist and play directly from there. On MOG, if you double-click on the first song in a playlist, it will add only that song to your play queue, so the entire point of the playlist is nullified.

Advantage: Spotify

Criterion #3: Mobile App

Both Spotify and MOG allow streaming from a smart phone with a premium account. (Both premium accounts are $9.99, so it's a push there.) However, since you aren't always online from your phone when you're at the gym or in your car, you have to first select which songs you want to listen to ahead of time, and download them to your phone. With a premium account, MOG allows unlimited downloads and Spotify allows precisely 3,333 downloads -- that's essentially unlimited when you consider that you're on your phone selecting and de-selecting songs fairly often.

You have to have a wifi connection when you do the downloading, and it does take about 20-30 seconds per song. You'll want to make sure your phone stays active during this process, or else the app will freeze. It does drain the battery, but if you're doing it at home you can have it plugged in while you go. I've used both apps consistently in the past week, and once you have the music and it's playing, there's really no difference.

Advantage: Push

Criterion #4: Sound Quality

I listen to music primarily through headphones and on small Logitech speakers at home. I can only make the determination through what I read and what I hear, and this currently does not include a large home soundsystem. (I have large speakers which I use to listen to records and watch television, but I have no way to hook up a computer or phone to these, so it's an admittedly limited judgment.)

Most MOG tracks are in high quality 320 kbps CBR, which can actually be a little tricky if you have to listen through a browser at work. The bitrate is so large that the playback will stall if you're running other programs. That being said, it is of consistently high sound quality. Everything I've listened to on MOG sounds fantastic.

Spotify also provides 320 kbps quality, but only for premium accounts. Also, fewer of Spotify's available tracks have this quality than on MOG. When you're just listening in your daily life, you probably won't know the difference. Try playing "Niggas In Paris" back-to-back on headphones though, and you can tell.

Advantage: MOG

Criterion #5: Social Experience

As I mentioned earlier, the ability to share, mix and explore really puts Spotify over the edge for me. The experience actually reminds me of the fun I used to have making mix tapes for friends in the 90s. It's easier to do these days, allows me more music to work with, and I can actually see the results if someone subscribes to one of my playlists.

I prefer to turn off the "what I'm listening to" function by default, so my Facebook friends aren't forced to see every single track I'm listening to. However, sharing full playlists is easier and more manageable on Spotify.

Advantage: Spotify

There are some other intangibles, especially if you're not into paying for one of these services. Spotify does have a free option, where you can listen to 10 hours of music a week (for the first six months) with annoying commercials every few songs. MOG does not have a free option. For someone like me who spends plenty of money on music anyway, it's actually an economical decision to pay $10 a month. At $15 an album in the store, I only need to purchase eight fewer albums over the course of a year to make it cost-effective.

I'm going to stick with Spotify precisely for its ease and usability. If MOG fixes the issues I mentioned with its application and keeps its sound quality higher, it may be worth it in the future for me to switch. For now, however, Spotify wins and remains my music-streaming service of choice.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Best Unheard Music of 2011

Instead of a traditional "Best of" list, I wanted to acknowledge some of the great albums of 2011 that I haven't seen mentioned by many critics as we get closer to the end of the year.

The Bon Ivers and Drakes and M83s deserve their accolades and will get them from more prominent writers than myself. Here is some of the great off-the-beaten-path music 2011 had to offer:

The Psychic Paramount - II

Not the heaviest rock of the year -- a few of those later in the list -- but The Psychic Paramount give the heaviest art-rock statement of 2011 with their relentless second album. The first track doesn't even really begin; you're thrust into an intense, guitar-laden fray mid-note.

Fell Voices - Untitled

Dark and forboding, Fell Voices' Untitled LP stands as one of the most haunting and confounding records of 2011. It's the doom metal equivalent of one of the better M. Night Shyamalan movies. The build-ups and riffs never quite go where you think they will and it rewards multiple listens.

Deerhoof - Deerhoof vs. Evil

A few indie hits later, Deerhoof is still churning out great art pop songs. They throw everything in the bag so as not to duplicate themselves, but Deerhoof vs. Evil is closest in nature to 2008's masterful Friend Opportunity. There are songs on here that I swear would be huge if they made it on the radio. Like every Deerhoof record though, you realize that a solo-room dance is as close is it will come to mass appeal.

Akron/Family - S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT

I really don't know how this album got so overlooked. To me, it's Akron/Family's White Album (hyperbole noted). It could easily have been a double album had they squeezed a few more tracks in there, but as it is, you've got an hour of frenetic freak-folk balanced with some of the most beautiful melodies outside of the 60s. Fortunately, one of its best tracks, "Island," as a nice accompanying music video for some visual stimulation.

Boris - Heavy Rocks/Attention Please/New Album

Boris is like that movie that has so many great performances that it splits the Oscar votes. These guys just put out so much material, it's almost hard to keep up.

Thurston Moore - Demolished Thoughts
Beck has a good habit these days of producing other artists' albums and make them sound like a split LP. Last year, Beck produced a Charlotte Gainsbourg album that sound liked a set of Beck songs produced by Charlotte Gainsbourg. This year, he gives a similar treatment to Thurston Moore's latest, nine acoustic songs with that rambling outcast vibe. A solo effort on par with Psychic Hearts.

Handsome Furs - Sound Kapital

Sound Kapital is the dancepartiest of all Handsome Furs albums thus far. I saw them at the Echoplex a few months ago and it was one of the best shows I've ever seen where the performers didn't have much more than a guitar and some variety of noise-bloop machine. Crazy Dance Party. I approve. (Album cover below is NSFW)

Grouper - A I A:Dream Loss/Alien Observer
Liz Harris's latest is a collection of two 12" records, but their combination works well as a double LP. Like the greatest of Brian Eno's ambient recordings, Grouper's music could be background music if it wasn't so damned gripping. Despite the droning aspects, most sounds are created through Harris's vocals and guitar plucking. Worth a deep, focused listen.

(This post can also be found on my co-music blog, Teenage Quiet.)