New music.

The 90s was a weird time for music. The whole decade is essentially typified by the alternative genre, and I'll just say that for me, most of what came from alternative was a wash - so purposefully un-melodic and apathetic it made me want to put a gun to my head. The snap-back from those long, painful years was the bright, shiny, pointless pop of Britney, Backstreet Boys, etc.; we clearly got what we deserved.

But this blog post isn't about shitty 90s music. I'm just prefacing to get to where I want to go. By the early 2000s I was hearing songs that gave me hope for music's future. Since then popular music in most genres has returned to melodic form, and even in increasingly sub-subgenres like dream pop and post-dubstep and EDM, writers and producers are still discovering the infinite ways to spin and wield a dope melodic/harmonic progression. Think of La Roux's 'Bulletproof,' Goyte's 'Somebody That I Used To Know' - hell, even Nicki Minaj's 'Superbass' has an earworm.

Which brings me to today, and my happiness at discovering some new musicians to listen to who, in a different decade, would have fallen prey to the times, but here and now are fantastic.

First up is Banks (first name Jillian), discovered in the car stereo of a friend last week. She's got a couple of albums out in the 'alt-pop' genre, which is dominated by 'sultry [women] singers backed by uber-hip electronic beatscapes,' something I happen to very much enjoy, thank you. I especially appreciate her use of interwoven vocal motifs in the absence of acoustic instrumentation, and she consistently sets a wonderfully evocative, moody atmosphere. Although after several methodical previews of both albums via iTunes I only came away purchasing a handful of songs, the point is that she's in the right direction and she's something new to listen to.

(One thing I realized after obsessively listening to those songs was that they were everything I wished so much that Ellie Goulding's third album, Delirium, would be, and in fact, Banks sounds a lot like Halcyon-era Goulding. It makes me sad that Goulding abandoned a perfect sound and structure in favor of 'progress' or 'love' or whatever, and I hope that on her next album she gets back to what works best)

In the reviews for one of Banks' albums someone suggested she pair up with James Blake. So I looked him up and...story time.


Halloween viewing list.

Because apparently I can only do lists anymore!

I realized after putting together my 'best movies of the decade so far' list that I left out of consideration a couple of truly stellar scary flicks, which chastened me because I'm always the one saying that the intelligentsia should finally start recognizing and awarding those outside genres like sci-fi and horror. If applicable I will rectify this on the eve of 2020 - pending we're all still here, of course. ;) (I'm not a doomsday prepper, I just don't know what's wrong with this world anymore. Sigh) In the meantime, I'll put an asterisk next to the names of movies that should have been in the running for last year's list.

I think that the 2010s have been an incredible time for scary movies because they're finally being done right. We're past the slasher insanity of the 70s, the teen nonsense of the 80s, and the self-awareness of the 90s and 00s. Finally, filmmakers are making good on the truth that the only thing to fear is fear itself - it's what you don't know, what you can't see, that is the scariest, because the mind will fill in the blanks with whatever scares you the most. In this way, the 'scare' factor impacts a much larger portion of the audience than is possible with gushing blood and feral screaming (which, shocker, isn't scary!).

So, herewith, my list of movies to watch during the witching season that should leave you good and scared by the time Halloween night gets here. Enjoy...IF YOU DARE. No, just enjoy.

(in no particular order)

Paranormal Activity (2007) The first movie to dare to capitalize on the found-footage premise of Blair Witch Project almost a decade before, PA scared THE SHIT out of me. It is only one of three movies that have ever kept me awake at night after seeing it (the other two being Signs and Event Horizon). It's basically 100% 'things that go bump in the night' and that is really all I ask for. Of the sequels, only part three reaches the level of the first. Absolutely do not watch this alone with the lights out. You will die.

Insidious Chapter 2* (2013) While the first Insidious was great, the sequel blew my mind, for several reasons. First, I think the concept of The Further is awesome - a dead zone parallel to ours, all dark empty houses and bad memories and regret (the motionless people seen in the third Insidious were a great touch, for an otherwise subpar installment). Second, the integration of the events from the first movie, with the intruder, is phenomenal. If the screenwriter did not write the first movie with any inkling of a second in mind, he's a genius. Third, I thoroughly enjoy how Chapter 2 taps into the contemporary ghost hunting craze, as the characters investigate an abandoned hospital (classic!) and an essentially haunted house. Fourth, the backstory on the Old Woman is both creepy as hell and heartbreaking. If you twisted my arm, I'd have to say this is my favorite on the list.

What We Do in the Shadows (2014) If you've never seen Flight of the Conchords then you will be unprepared for the majesty that is Jemaine Clement. He and fellow kiwi Taika Waititi produced this comedic gem (Watiti, fun fact, is currently directing the third Thor - whaaa?!). The movie is a mockumentary about four vampires living in a huge, rundown house in modern-day New Zealand, and their struggles to stay relevant yet still undiscovered. It's so second-by-second hilarious that at one point I was laughing so hard I couldn't hear what else they were saying and I thought, oh well, there'll be something else ridiculous along in a moment. No worries! Of course this movie isn't scary and isn't meant to be, but it will make your Halloween for sure.