The Best of 2020

Let’s just get it out of the way now, 2020 sucked.  Except when it came to music, TV, books and film.  As always in life, the arts kept us breathing, when certainly those in power seemed to have no interest in doing so.

So let’s get right to it.  Was there one or two records this year that stood out like the releases from Lana Del Rey and Billie Eilish did in 2019?  Depends on what day you’re asking (or were all the days the same).  Depends on my mood.  At any time one of the record topped it, only to be pushed to second place the next day.  So, instead of a top ten albums in order of preference, I resent simply the ten best albums of 2020, in order of their release date.

Soccer Mommy – “Color Theory” – It was mid-January when Sophie Allison’s new record was released.  The world seemed an okay place, except for perhaps in Allison’s world.  Behind the sparkling guitars was a darkness haunting the story telling.  In ten songs she captured the pain of isolation and longing.  There isn’t a weak beat on this record.  And in a way it set up what was to come brilliantly.

Torres – “Silver Tongue” – On the last day of January came a new record from Torres, whom we had recently seen open for Superchunk on their acoustic “Foolish” tour.  I have loved Mackenzie Scott’s guitar playing since the release of her first record, many years back, and was anxiously awaiting this first album on Merge after she was rudely dropped from 4AD.  And with “Silver Tongue” she takes it to another level completely.  This is a driving record that will put you into a trance, and “Good Grief” is the guitar song of the year.  Scott’s pain is palpable throughout, the anger of her voice dueling with her six string virtuosity.  Listen to this record on vinyl at the loudest volume you can endure.  It’s the closest you’ll come to a live concert this year.  Fuck, yes!

Lucinda Williams – “Good Souls Better Angels” – Late February.  Few singer/songwriters are better than Lucinda Williams when motivated, and Lucinda was angry.  Hell, we hadn’t even gotten to Covid-19 yet.  This was all Trump.  A pissed-off calling out that harkened back to the days of “Essence” genius.  She sang what so many of us were feeling in that boozy brawl of a voice that is unlike anything else in the world.  This was the sort of album you put on as therapy.  There are other people out there as angry as I am. 

S.G. Goodman – “Old Time Feeling” – Early March, I was in Nashville for the Seniors A Dogumentary world premiere, the next night I’d be seeing Lucy Dacus on the Opry, and the night after that Archers of Loaf.  Then I’d head home, and stay there.  The vibe of this record is one of the things that helped me through.  A bluesy old-school country feel without any hokiness.  There an authenticity here, heartfelt Americana, by way of Kentucky.  You can almost feel the ghosts of Patsy Cline drinking whiskey with Karen Dalton grooving to Goodman.  Love this record.

Waxahatchee – “Saint Cloud” – Late March brough us Katie Crutchfield’s best album since her 2012 debut “American Weekend.”  An album about healing in a time when the breaking of this country’s soul was still hitting its peak, this is the record that for anyone listening at that point in time saw the light at the end of the proverbial Trump tunnel.  Hopeful but not overly optimistic, it has shades of mid-60s Dylan, and that’s about as high a compliment I can think of to give any record.  Crutchfield nails it on this one.

Phoebe Bridgers – “Punisher” – Mid-June brought us a simply perfect album, Bridger’s second, and it any single album had pushed through to top this list, this would have been it.  This is an album so vast and beautiful, so intimate, yet at times brash and poppy, Bridgers has created a record where there are no songs to skip.  And even picking the example to post here.  In my head everyone must know “Kyoto” by this point because it was simply the best pop song of the year.  “Graceland Too” makes my mind explode.  “Halloween” breaks my heart.  There’s no place to start, because there’s no place to stop.  It’s just fucking brilliant.  And for anyone whose seen her numerous “live” appearances and performances since the pandemic began, you realize, Bridgers is the performer we need right now.  She never fails to bring a smile.  And what could be better than that?  

The Chicks – “Gaslighter” – Mid-July brought us the angriest album of the year.   And while sure, Natalie Maines and company were pissed at Trump, it was her ex-husband who really set the album on fire.  After a 14 year hiatus, the band dropped the Dixie, and the hammer.  Brutally honest, to the point where Maines’ ex tried to block its release, “Gaslighter” is about buying into the lies of someone who should have your best interests at heart.  We certainly could all relate.  Their video to “March March” was also the best music video of the year. 

Taylor Swift – “Folklore”/”Evermore”/”Folklore: the Long Pond Studio Sessions” – A week later Swift took over. She did in one year what most musicians aspire to in perhaps their lifetime.  A truly stunning album, followed by a live reimagining of that album, followed by a starker equally brilliant record.  And for those of you who just view Swift as some vacuous pop princess, you’re missing out on one of the great songwriters and story tellers of our time. Put on any song from one of these three collections and be whisked away into tales of a teenage love triangle gone wrong, a mansion of broken dreams, heartbreak, desire, revenge.  And gone is the slick dance/pop production of her last few outings, replaced instead by the simplest of arrangements.  These are timeless records, put one on from start to finish and you’ll be swept away.

Lydia Loveless – “Daughter” – Late September brought the long awaited fifth album from one of my favorite singers of all time.  And while the voice and (most of) the band remains the same, its Loveless song writing abilities that truly shines here.  Lyrically as good if not better than anything she’s done, the album focuses on giving yourself a long hard look in the eye and moving on, despite the pain involved.  It’s a record that grows on your with every listen, and the one not only Loveless needed to make, but the one we needed to hear.  

Miley Cyrus – “Plastic Hearts” – I love Miley Cyrus.  No pop star is more comfortable in their skin.  She just doesn’t give a fuck what you think.  In late November she turned her career around again with the release of a record that sounds like classic mid-80s rock, in a good way.  “Plastic Hearts” is the perfect diversion for the mind-fuck that 2020 became.  It’s a release, a fall back to a time when you could put on a good rock and roll record and not think seeing a friend might lead to your demise.   

Most Disappointing Album of 2020:

Car Seat Headrest – “Making a Door Less Open” – The band was supposedly trying to make their Bowie album. They didn’t.  A disappointing mess.

Best Single of 2020:

Archers of Loaf – “Raleigh Days” – I waited 20 years for this song, and it was worth it.  Raucous and exhilarating, and clocking in at under two and a half minutes, my favorite band in the world took two decades off my life, and made me feel like I was sweating and moving in unison with hundreds of other fans at some dive bar in the East Village. The single most perfect moment of this mostly shit year.

Best Reissue (tie):

Wilco – “Summerteeth” – Arguably Wilco’s best album gets a treatment fit for a queen with this stunning reissue featuring outtakes, demos, live performances, all beautifully packaged.  Blissful in every way.

Tom Petty – “Wildflowers & All The Rest” – The solo demo versions of one of Petty’s most loved records might be his greatest record of all.  A treasure trove of song writing brilliance.

Worst Reissue:

The Replacements – “Pleased To Meet Me” – You know I love this band, but for me this was a disappointment on every level.  There was nothing here I needed to hear, not ever, not once.  A beautifully remastered version of the original album on vinyl would have been much preferred.  So bad it almost destroys the memory of one of the greatest albums ever made.

Musical Discovery of 2020:

Karen Dalton – I’m obsessed. And how she could have slipped past my radar is beyond me.  The voice reminds me of Billie Holiday, but singing Americana.  It brings me to my knees.  Listen to this sample.  You’ll either love it or not.  (P.S. A great documentary on Dalton called “In My Own Time” is coming next year.)

Best Documentary: 

“Miss Americana” – Part cinema verité, part “Fog of War,” Lana Wilson’s documentary on Taylor Swift ranks as one of the great rock docs of all time.  Beautifully edited (and docs are ALL about editing), it tells the eye-opening story of the fame at Swift’s level, and how eventually she broke from the ranks of her many handlers and started running her career, her life, on her own terms.  There are not many films that I look at and say, “I wish I made that film.”  Well, this is one of them.  

Best Narrative Feature: 

“Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always” – a filmmaking tour-de-force that had no equal this year.  From the stark 16mm cinematography, to the performances from Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder, Eliza Hittman’s portrayal of a teenage girl who travels from rural Pennsylvania to NYC so she can obtain an abortion is the sort of film which will define “independent filmmaking” for years to come.  One of the best films of this century.  The scene from which the film pulls its title will stay with you forever.

Best TV (tie):

“Normal People” – Daisy Edgar-Jones  and ‎Paul Mescal will break your heart over and over again in what was easily the most perfect series in a year of amazing TV.  This is what chemistry between actors should feel like.  So damn good.  I almost wish I had never seen it, so I can experience watching it again for the first time.

“I Am Not Okay With This” – Sophia Lillis is quickly becoming one of our greatest actresses with this wonderfully fucked up tale of a girl with some weird powers and the geeky boy who likes her.  It’s seven very short episodes.  Just watch it and thank me later.

Worst Thing I Watched All Year:

“Billie” – a completely pathetic documentary about Billie Holiday that seems more interested in her drug use, who she was sleeping with, and the woman who died before she could finish writing Holiday’s biography, than it does in Holiday’s voice.  And the use of colorization on some classic old clips makes me want to bitch-slap the director.  Everything that could be wrong about this is. The greatest singer of all time deserves much better.

As for the rest of my 2020:

Thankfully two of my films, “Pizza A Love Story” and “Seniors A Dogumentary,” were released on DVD and streaming platforms everywhere, and have garnered a lot of love from viewers.  

“Where are you, Jay Bennett?” – my 6th rock doc is done.  We are out to film festivals, and one way or another, we will be screening by early summer, at the latest, hopefully to a live audience.

I completed my first short film in years, “The Matchbox Man,” which is also out to film festivals.  It will also premiere in very early summer.

“Factory,” our look at the crazy life behind the New Haven Clock Company building, is being edited.  Though once things are safe, we still need to film a few additional interviews. Watch for a new trailer, edited by Sydni Frisch, coming in early January.

With the help of some amazing people (Katherine, Tony, Haley, Cassandra, Karyl, Ed, Sydni, Ken, Matt) we were able to pull off a miracle with the 7th edition of NHdocs, and actually present 16 live screenings, plus another 100 or so films online.

I did at least get to see Archers of Loaf back in March the week before the shutdown, in Nashville, a city I love.  Ate a lot of Jeni’s ice cream too!

Kris and I cooked a lot. A real lot.  Painted our deck, rearranged rooms, got rid of clutter, alphabetized CDs. Variations of what everyone else was doing.

Our dogs, Springsteen and Dylan, are both doing well. 

And that’s it.  This damn year is over.  Be well, hug your dog, raise a drink (virtually) to the people you love and respect, eat good pizza, drink hot coffee, laugh, rock, play it loud, believe that things will get better come January 20, and be kind to everyone you meet (no matter what side of the aisle they’re on).  

Oh, and wear a damn mask!

The Best of a VERY Fucked-Up Year (aka The Best of 2016)

What a fucked-up year.

No, really. I’ve lived 57 of them, and this one takes the cake. And I’m not even talking politics, which was the shit show of all shit shows with the shit winning, I’m talking David Bowie and Prince dying. And I’m not sure if their deaths had anything to do with it, but the music that was released in 2016 was for the most part crap. I can think of very few albums that deserve a place on any top ten list. I can think of a handful of runner-ups. And I can remember a whole boatload of shit. Especially from people I respect.  (PW, are you kidding me?)  Apropos for this shit show year.

Of course what makes it even more fucked-up is that the best record of 2016 is really the record I listened to most in 2015. The record I loved most in 2015. But I couldn’t share it with any one. I was so careful with it that I would not leave a copy in my Jeep overnight for fear that someone would break in, steal the cd, and pirate it on the internet.

And taking that one step further, the album I played most in 2016, really came out in 2015. So I can’t legitimately even name it the best record of this year.

Like I said, fucked up.

But so am I, and I don’t really care.

The two records of which I speak are REAL from Lydia Loveless, which came out this year, but devastated me last. And SIDELONG from Sarah Shook and the Disarmers, which was released by Sarah on her own label in October 2015, but didn’t fall into my hands until March 19th of this year.

I’ll start with REAL. Anyone who’s read these pages, or spent 30 seconds talking music with me over the past couple of years, knows how I feel about Lydia Loveless and her band. They are the greatest rock and roll band on the planet at this point in time. I believe in them more strongly that the Pope believes in God. (No joke, I’ve talked it out with Benny.) Hell, you know I only make films about things I’m passionate about.

Camera in hand, I got to document a lot of the REAL recording sessions. I got to hear first vocal takes on what would become songs that ripped me apart from inside out. Where the fuck does her voice come from? Lydia can hit a note and make me cry.  A lot of the album did, or at least reduce me to goosebumps and shivers. The title was perfect because it gave you fair warning as to what to expect. Everything here real, the emotions, the playing, the voice. And much like the musicial chameleons who passed this year, Lydia was not afraid to change. I find it amusing that the album has ended up on so many best country album lists. Not sure that there’s one song here I’d even remotely consider country. And perhaps that’s another aspect of her brilliance, you can’t categorize her. Lydia has a song for every occasion, from funeral to wedding, from heartbreak to joy. And REAL runs that gamut.

SIDELONG on the other hand is old-time country by way of BEGGARS BANQUET or LET IT BLEED. I’ve played this album to the point where my friends and my wife will no longer allow me to play it in their presence. Not joking. It’s caused screaming fights. This year, week after week new records would be released. I’d play them once (a hand full perhaps made it to a half-dozen plays), and immediately return to SIDELONG. Still today, nine months after I first heard it, I have it on endless replay in my Jeep. Hell, I had the opening line to her song DWIGHT YOAKAM tattooed on my arm. I am obsessed with this fucking record. It is crack-cocaine to me. It is perfection from start to finish. It is my new ICKY METTLE. (Though that still is my desert island album.) What the fuck is in the water in that Chapel Hill area?

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Why does SIDELONG work so well? Why does it hold me in its clutches. Because every word, every note, every warble in Shook’s voice, rings true.   “I’m drinking water tonight ’cause I drank all the whiskey this morning/Drank the whiskey this morning ’cause my baby, she ain’t coming home.” Seriously fuck. Just stop writing songs now. It’s done. It’s over. Sarah Shook won.

So all of that said, I’m just going to break some rules here and name REAL and SIDELONG as the two best records of this fucked-up year. Buy them (if you download them illegally you’re a scum-sucking piece of shit who deserves to have your legs crushed in a car accident…and oh, I am so fucking serious when I say that I hope I’m driving the other car), savor them, realize that rock and roll ain’t as dead as it otherwise seems.

There were a handful of other albums that I listened to more than once in 2016. (No really, more than once was a lot when SIDELONG was waiting, whispering into my ear, calling out my name.)  These got played.  These are respected.

Here they are in no specific order. These are all beautiful records, and in any other year they might have ended near or at the top of this list. Instead of explaining why I liked them (let’s face it, we have all talked way too much this year – perhaps we can all just shut the fuck up in 2017), just listen to the attached song. You’ll either get it, or not. And if you do, buy the album. You won’t be sorry.

David Bowie – BLACKSTAR

Big Thief – MASTERPIECE

Mitski – PUBERTY 2

Car Seat Headrest – TEENS OF DENIAL

Wilco – SCHMILCO

Adia Victoria – BEYOND THE BLOODHOUNDS

Drive-By Truckers – AMERICAN BAND

A Giant Dog – PILE

Rolling Stones – Blue & Lonesome

Eric Bachmann – (SELF TITLED)

Eric Bachmann & Jon Rauhouse – (SELF TITLED)

MOST DISAPPOINTING ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Pretty much anything and everything else. I had no patience for the regurgitated same-old/same-old. I had no patience for anything commercial. Perhaps I just had no patience. Bowie and Prince fucking died.

BEST SONG OF THE YEAR: It’s a tie between Shook’s DWIGHT YOAKAM and OUT ON LOVE from Loveless. You already know what I think of the former, and with the latter Loveless and company traveled an aural landscape they had yet to visit. Moody, heartbreaking, depressing and utterly fucked up. Perhaps a good theme song for 2016.

OTHER GREAT SONGS: see the samples I posted from the runner-up albums of the year. These are among my favorite songs of the year.

BEST LIVE SHOW: Eric Bachmann’s living room show in New Haven. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen Eric play since falling in love with Archers of Loaf in 1993. Forty, fifty, maybe more. But on this one night, he seemed to channel all that was great, and there’s a lot that’s great about this most under-appreciated songwriter. One song from each of the fifteen records he’d sung on. Played on guitar or banjo, with two for good measure on the upright piano sitting against one wall in the living room. CHUMMING THE OCEANS being one of those. I make no bones about it that my favorite song of all time is WEB IN FRONT, it was beautiful and perfect on acoustic guitar. THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME on freakin’ banjo. NOSTALGIA also on acoustic guitar. It was one of those magic nights that I will remember forever. It was perfect from beginning to end, and I walked away thinking yeah, I could die happily tonight.

BEST HOLLYWOOD NARRATIVE FILM: I’m temped to say no such thing any more, but I did dig THE GIRL ON A TRAIN. Not much else, but then I tend to stay away from anything with special effect, which severely limits the Hollywood films I can see.

BEST INDEPENDENT NARRATIVE FILM: SING STREET. John Carney, the director of the breathtaking ONCE, returns to indie roots with a tale of a bullied teen who starts a band in 80s Dublin to impress a girl. Everything about this film will leave you grinning from ear-to-ear. It’s a perfect film. Not one that will change your world, just one that will make it a little brighter.

Other great films: LA LA LAND, THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN, NOCTURNAL ANIMALS

BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM: I hate to say it but I’ve yet to see a number of films with might be in the running like CAMERAPERSON or TOWER. I did truly like WEINER, but I can’t call it the best doc of the year. I’ve found that a number of docs I see are told by people who don’t really know how to tell a story in a solid three-act structure. The story they’re trying to tell might seem fascinating, and a great editor might be able to get their film there, but fo me, so many just do not work. Just because it’s a doc doesn’t mean storytelling should take a back seat.

BEST TV: I think there were three television show that for me fired on all cylinders this year: THE NIGHT OF for drama, SILICON VALLEY for comedy, and LAST WEEK TONIGHT WITH JOHN OLIVER for everything else. The first was simply riveting from beginning to end, the next smart and sassy and even heartfelt, and the later was a safety net of sanity in this most fucked up year.

BOOKS OF THE YEAR: This year was mainly about short stories, and my favorite book/collection is actually a few years old. BIG WORLD from Mary Miller is the best short story collection I’ve read this side of Raymond Carver. Yes, that’s ridiculously high praise. Until you start read and wonder if I’m selling her short. Her characters are damaged and all too real, I knew every last one of them. A perfect mirror on relationships in this fucked-up time.

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As for the rest of my 2016: I’m ridiculously proud of my newest feature WHO IS LYDIA LOVELESS? The screening were all a blast, with Lydia always turning in an original acoustic performance, sometimes a surprise, as the Prince cover was in Boston. (What does her voice do to me?  Earlier that day I was just sitting around on my laptop, she was playing my small Martin acoustic.  She went into the Prince tune.  I had to keep my back to her because I was crying through the entire song.  I managed to say, “You have to play that tonight,” when she was done.)

Completed four music videos (one for Shook, three for Loveless), that all had great premieres. There were all a blast to make. (Thank you again to all the great people who helped out on these videos.)

A DOG NAMED GUCCI was beautifully released on DVD.  If you have not seen this film, watch it.  You will to have to turn away.  Instead it will open your eyes and inspire you.

Dean Falcone’s beautiful production of ONE VOICE from Gucci was released on vinyl on Record Store Day.

Had a short story published in the WAITING TO BE FORGOTTEN collection, and even completed my first novel in a decade.  (Stayed tuned for that.)

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Found a number of great new crew people: welcome aboard Isabella (who single-handledly edited the EUROPEAN video), Lindsay, Charlotte, and Hannah.

Enjoyed a lovely vacation with Kristine to our favorite place in the world, Key West. We welcomed a new pup into our lives, the Lab/Rottie mix Dylan, who ended up being a Lab/Beagle mix.

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And NHdocs, the documentary film fest I run with Charlie Musser, grew from three days to eleven. (Just wait until this year!)

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I hope to finish our anti-bullying film NORMAL VALID LIVES in 2017. It feels even more important now.

Plus we’ll be announcing two new projects (we’ve got five in the works, one you really can’t know about yet.). As for the other two: the first is our second animal film, which will be announced early in 2017. The other, my fifth rock doc of course. And if you haven’t figured out the subject after reading this post, go back and read again, read it over and over again. Eventually you’ll figure it out.  Here’s a hint.

So, stay tuned; follow along on twitter and facebook.

Stay safe, healthy, sane, and happy. And a little obsessed.  We need obsession of the good kind right now.  (Drink a lot of water.)

R.I.P. Bowie & Prince

DVD release dates!

Sorry it’s been a while…

First, spent a lot of August in Minneapolis filming EVERY EVERYTHING, THE MUSIC, LIFE & TIMES OF GRANT HART.

Second, really started hard editing of BROKEN SIDE OF TIME, part two of my Alone Trilogy.

Third, was in Key West, one of my favorite places on earth, with Kris, celebrating our 20th anniversary.

But today, the pressing matter is the DVD release date for both COLOR ME OBSESSED and WHAT DID YOU EXPECT?

NOVEMBER 20TH!

MARK IT DOWN!

Now a little on both releases…(click the title to pre-order)

WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? THE ARCHERS OF LOAF LIVE AT CAT’S CRADLE

To me, the Archers of Loaf were the single greatest band of the 90s. They saved my love of music after The Replacement broke up, and I truly felt no band would ever fill those dirty Converse All Stars.

I will always remember the first time I saw the Archers live at a CMJ showcase at Tramps in NYC. Within 30 seconds I knew I had discovered my new favorite band. And that’s never changed. I do honestly believe WEB IN FRONT is the greatest song ever written. Ever. It makes me happy. The band makes me happy.

But of course all good things must come to an end as they did in 1998. A true story: I knew the band, and knew WHITE TRASH HEROES would be their last album. The day it was released I drove some 45 minutes to pick it up, and listened to it blissfully for the first time on the ride home, having to pull over as the last song came on, because knowing it was the last new song I’d ever hear from them I began to cry. I sat in a bank parking lot the tears flowing uncontrollably as the final refrains of that amazing title track played on my car’s speakers.

Jump forward to 2011. My first rock documentary, COLOR ME OBSESSED, A FILM ABOUT THE REPLACEMENTS, was doing quite well on the festival circuit. I knew I wanted to make a second rock doc. And one afternoon my wife informed me that the Archers were reuniting for a tour, and I knew I had my next subject. I won’t go into the details of talking the camera-sky band into the project, but after seeing their two LA performances I knew I had to do everything in my power to forever preserve this energy for future generations. Especially in a time when going to a rock show usually means seeing a wimpy band who looks even more bored than the texting crowd members who are more interested in talking or being seen.

Cat’s Cradle was the obvious venue. So I got together some of my favorite crew members I’d worked with in recent years. Jan Radder and Sarah Hajtol, who were my right and left hands in making COLOR ME. Adrian Correia who did such an amazing job shooting my FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) — the original FWB movie. As well as Cory Maffucci and Andrew Ross. We had seven cameras in all, with me on Eric Johnson’s side of the stage, Sarah on Matt Gentling’s, Jan with two cameras behind drummer Mark Price, Adrian roaming the audience, Cory watching over the Red One capturing our wide shot, and Andrew on the catwalk covering the crowd.

I shot the interviews myself a few months later in their hometown of Asheville, then I went home and cut together the truly mind-blowing footage to Brian Paulson’s astounding mix.

I’ve made a number of films, written a bunch of books, but never in 30 years did I have more fun doing anything. This is my proudest moment as a filmmaker, because not only do I feel I have made a great film, I know I have helped preserve an important part of rock history, proof that rock once had balls, and at times, still can.

I love this band, and have never found a replacement for them. I doubt I ever will.

And FYI: the set list from the film can be seen as the background to the poster. The DVD 12 contains 6 additional songs from the two Cradle shows, and 4 extra interviews with the band members.

COLOR ME OBSESSED, A FILM ABOUT THE REPLACEMENTS

Just want you to know how proud we are of this DVD release. On it you’ll find 6 hours of extras including 19 deleted scenes, the complete interviews with Grant Hart of Husker Du, famed rock critic Robert Christgau, and Sound Opinions hosts Greg Kot & Jim DeRogatis, a behind the scenes interview with me, and another with Hansi Oppenheimer who originated the project years ago. Plus there are two commentaries, one from me, and the other from our Minneapolis producer Jan Radder. Throw in 4 trailers, and you have one hell of a DVD!!!

Color Me Obsessed was a blast to make. And for anyone wondering why there’s no band or music, that was the concept from the start. We never even asked to speak with the band, never asked to use the music. Never. From the get-go I wanted to turn the rock doc genre on its ear. And for a band who shot a stereo speaker for 4 minutes for its first music video, I think this approach is appropriate and more than fitting.

A number of critics seem to agree. Rolling Stone called it one of “the seven best new music documentaries of the year.” The Village Voice called it “the rock version of Rashomon.” David Carr, the NY Times columnist tweeted “You can feel The Replacements in every single frame.” And the raves go on and on (even check the IMDb user comments).

For fans, you will be reaching for your Mats albums the moment the end credits roll. (NOTE: the film doesn’t end with the end credits. There’s more!)

And for music lovers not familiar with The Replacements, you will be armed with everything you need to discover them and fall in love with them as we did so many years back.

As CHARTattack said, “the film is a shockingly refreshing and invigorating experience for anyone who ever care about any kind of music at all.”

All for now…

Hope you enjoy the films!

Archers of Loaf & Internet Modeling (or World Premiers & a KickStarter campaign)

The World Premiere plus upcoming screenings of my new feature-length concert documentary WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? THE ARCHERS OF LOAF LIVE AT CAT’S CRADLE:

June 15th – NXNE Festival, Toronto, Canada (World Premiere)

June 18th – Sled Island Festival, Calgary, Canada

July 5th – CBGB Fest, NYC (US Premiere)

July 7th – Cat’s Cradle, Chapel Hill, NC

July 18th – The Brattle, Cambridge, MA

August 15th – Trylon, Minneapolis, MN

October 5th thru 11th – Northwest Film Forum, Seattle, WA

And my first narrative feature since FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS). A very dark, sensual drama that takes place in the world of internet modeling (y’know places like Model Mayhem and One Model Place with their one million members)…

Please pre-order the DVD to BROKEN SIDE OF TIME

Or at least watch the trailer:

Then visit the KickStarter page.

Thanks!

Upcoming Screenings

Upcoming screenings of COLOR ME OBSESSED, A FILM ABOUT THE REPLACEMENTS:

June 20th – Star Theatre, Portland, OR

June 23rd – Cafe Cinema, Virginia Beach, VA

July 5th – CBGB Fest, NYC

July 15th/16th – Hollywood Dormont, Pittsburgh, PA

July 23rd thru 29th – Cinefest Film Theatre, Atlanta, GA

July 27th – Cafe Nine, New Haven, CT

July 28th – Indie West Fest, Ventura, CA

Follow the film’s Facebook page for details and additional screenings.

Upcoming screenings of WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? THE ARCHERS OF LOAF LIVE AT CAT’S CRADLE:

June 15th – NXNE Festival, Toronto, Canada (World Premiere)

June 18th – Sled Island Festival, Calgary, Canada

July 5th – CBGB Fest, NYC (US Premiere)

July 7th – Cat’s Cradle, Chapel Hill, NC

Follow the film’s Facebook page for details and additional screenings.

What Did You Expect?

I finished editing my Archers of Loaf concert documentary WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? yesterday. I love this film. I love this band. I actually feel as if I somehow managed to capture their raw energy as well as their personalities in the film. And a lot of credit goes to my amazing crew: Jan Radder, Sarah Hajtol, Adrian Correia, Andrew Ross and Cory Maffucci.

It still needs color correction, a sound mix on the interview sections, and probably a little tweaking of a shot here and there. But it’s basically finished and I’m really happy with it. And also sad, that I won’t be blasting those amazing songs every day in my editing room.

The Best Music of 2011

This was a horrible year in music. As in 1992 and 1993 when every other band sounded exactly like Nirvana, this year brought upon us bands who felt that Vampire Weekend sound was the zenith for which to strive. And no band did VW better than Foster The People. I say it here, now, with utmost conviction, their SNL performance this fall was the most embarrassing musical event of the year. They make VW look like, well, almost a rock band by comparison. So freakin’ lame.

And of course they weren’t the only ones. Lame is the new creed for rock bands. Wimpy is the new balls.

But instead of focusing on the pathetic, let’s look at the few great albums released this year:

The best record of 2011, hands down, nothing came close, was “Past Lives, Martyred Saints” by EMA. It was raw, damaged, out of tune. The songs could rock you one minute, then haunt you for the rest of your life the next. Layers of vocals, upon almost Archers Of Loaf-like guitars. Lyrically you were left to wonder how she made it through recording the album alive. And if when she sings “I wished that every time you touched me left a mark” doesn’t send shivers down your spine, then check the old pulse. This album certainly left a mark on me. (In this iTunes generation, I’m going to list the one song for each record. This is where you should start. A song that will tell you all you need to know. With EMA, start with “Marked.”)

Speaking of Archers. The masterful reissue of their brilliant debut “Icky Mettle” was another highlight (and I know it doesn’t count as a new album, but I don’t care). Quite simply, it’s the best album of the 90s (with “Versus the Greatest of All Time,” the best rock EP of all time on the second disc). And “Web In Front” is probably the greatest song ever written. Yes, I love this band. And yes, if you don’t know them, you’re life is empty and meaningless. (There isn’t a bad track, and “Web” is too obvious, so start with “Bacteria,” which is so mind-numbingly brilliant, it might make your head explode, especially if you like shit like Foster the People.)

You’ve got to love the original Web video:

Then came Wilco’s “The Whole Love.” Their best since “Yankee,” an amazing collection of songs from one of the best songwriters of our time. Some of it was sprawling, much of it was poppy and beautiful, and then there was the fuzz bass, and that noise guitar at the end of “Art of Almost”— I get chills thinking about it! A great record! (Speaking of sprawling, start with “One Sunday Morning.”)

Crooked Fingers’ “Breaks In The Armor” was Eric Bachmann’s best songwriting since this band’s eponymously titled debut. He sounds energized, his word-play as sharp as ever, and the album’s sparse production makes every note ring true. (Pop on “Bad Blood,” and let it sink its teeth into you.)

The “Kitchen Tapes” version of Lucinda William’s “Blessed.” It sounds as if she’s singing for you…privately…in your freakin’ kitchen. The over-production of the actual album is gone, and we’re left with that voice and some off-kilter guitar playing. But really, Lucinda Williams singing to you in your kitchen!!! What the fuck more do you need? (Start with “I Don’t Know How You’re Livin’.” – it will break your heart.)

Sleeper Agent’s “Celabrasion” was my guilty pleasure for 2011. Sort of Blondie meets T- Rex, but then there ain’t nothing wrong with that. It’s about as poppy as I get. A lot of fun! (Start with “Get Burned.”)

Deer Tick’s “Divine Providence” is a great record in which they channel the spirit of The Replacements, right down to Bob Stinson’s “wrong note at the right time” way of soloing. It’s the perfect album for long drives on a summer night. Probably their best. And it makes me can’t wait for what’s coming next. (Start with “Funny Word.”)

Another great rock record from another great under-appreciated rock band is “Unpersons” from Vancouver’s The Pack A.D. Even if you’re sick of Black Keys/White Stripes schtick, give these gals a shot. To me they play with a genuine love for what they’re doing. No pretense. No ego. They’re having fun. (Start with “Haunt You.”)

Wild Flag’s eponymously titled debut like-wise rocked. And I truly loved about half of it. Probably would have made one of the best EPs we’ve heard in years. (Start with “Romance.”)

Ryan Adam’s “Ashes and Fire” – I’ll admit it took me a while to get into this album, it took me seeing him live at a church in Eugene, Oregon. But then the songs came alive. And it became the CD I’d play in my hotel room when I was along, on the road. It made me think of home. It made me miss my wife and dogs. It just worked…beautifully. (Start with “Dirty Rain.”)

Matthew Ryan’s “I Recall Standing As Though Nothing Could Fall” is another beautiful collection of song writing. Ryan’s voice always kills me. And it was nice to hear him end the album with one of his most rocking tracks in years. (Start with “Summer in the South.”)

And lastly Dark Mean’s eponymously titled album. Really dig this guy’s voice, and the banjo! Another fun record that just keeps growing on you with every spin. The hints of Ryan Bingham popping through in the sound don’t hurt. (Start with “Happy Banjo.”)

That’s it. Hopefully there’s something new here you can enjoy. And likewise, hopefully I’ll never have to fucking hear “Pumped Up Kicks” again for as long as I live.

I leave you with this gift from Mr. Bachmann…

What Did You Expect? (And 3 other features!)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

August 2, 2011

Archers of Loaf Concert Film Announced.
What Were We Thinking Films Receives Funding For Three Features.

CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA & NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT: Director Gorman Bechard, whose current feature, COLOR ME OBSESSED, A FILM ABOUT THE REPLACEMENTS, was named one of “The Seven Best New Music Documentaries of the Year,” by Rolling Stone, takes on another iconic indie rock band with WHAT DID YOU EXPECT?, a feature film capturing the excitement and raw energy of the Archers of Loaf reunion tour.

Filming in August at the legendary Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the film will bring to the small screen the explosive nature of an Archers’ show. “I believe the Archers of Loaf were the greatest rock band of the 90’s, and certainly one of the greatest live bands of all time,” Bechard explains. “The sheer power of their live shows needs to be preserved so future generations can know what a rock a band is supposed to do on stage.”

Bechard’s New Haven based What Were We Thinking Films has also just received backing for three feature film projects:

PIZZA, A LOVE STORY, a documentary that delves into the phenomenon that is New Haven brick oven pizza and the trifecta of Sally’s, Pepe’s, and Modern Apizza. With perpetual lines around the block and customers that include everyone from presidents to rock stars, these three legendary restaurants come rich with history and spark passionate debates. Beginning with the Italian migration to New Haven in the late 1800’s through the urban renewal debacle of the 50’s and 60’s, and into today when a two hour wait in line for a pie is not uncommon, Pizza, A Love Story is about family, passion, and of course one of the world’s favorite foods, pizza. Filming is currently taking place in the New Haven area.

ONE NIGHT STAND, is part two of Bechard’s planned “Alone Trilogy,” which began with his award-winning YOU ARE ALONE. Starring Lynn Mancinelli and Alex Brown, two leads from Bechard’s indie rom-com FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS), the horror film explores what happens when you take the wrong girl home. “It’s completely twisted and claustrophobic,” Bechard explains, “the entire film takes place in one small studio apartment, with mainly the two lead characters. It isn’t until the end of the first act that you realize what’s happening, and by the time you get to the third act, you realize you were wrong about that too.” Filming is scheduled for January 2012.

the temporary poster for BROKEN SIDE OF TIME

BROKEN SIDE OF TIME, also starring Mancinelli, is the first film set in the world of internet modeling. A dark road trip of slow redemption, the film takes a look at a woman who realizes her lifestyle is a death sentence. “She decides to give it all up, and go home,” the director explains, “but not before one last taste of the vices which are killing her.” BROKEN SIDE OF TIME is filming now, and is scheduled to be part of a filmmaking panel for the Hell’s Half Mile Film & Music Festival in Bay City, Michigan in late September. Attendees can watch Bechard and company as they shoot the closing scene of the film.

The Archers of Loaf

A musical aside…

The Archers of Loaf have reunited and are going on tour this summer. If you’ve never had the chance to see this band, sell your soul if you have to to see them live. Honestly, if you’re broke and have to choose between seeing a screening of Color Me Obsessed or the Archers play live, go see the Archers. (You can always rent CMO later.)

I still get goosebumps when I think about the first time I saw them. The 2003 CMJ fest in NYC. They were playing Tramps on 21st Street. The lights went down, and sound exploded from the stage, the crowd massive and sweaty, bouncing in unison. It took all of about 15 second to realize I had found the band I’d been looking for for over two years, someone to take the place of, and match the energy of my blessed Replacements. It was noise pop bliss, and I’m pretty sure tear came to my eyes that night. I’d found rock salavation. I had been saved.

I’ve seen the Archers countless times. They’ve never let me down. (Even when they were sick as dogs at the Iron Horse.) They were hands down the best rock band of the 90s. Just as ICKY METAL was the best album of that decade, and WEB IN FRONT its best song. Nothing and no one ever came close.

I fucking love this band! (Honestly, they’re my second favorite band of all time.)

Check out their tour dates here.