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September 14, 2004 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-09-14

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The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - 9

For the cultured film connoisseur, the summer
months are kind of like a retread to middle
school: A long, arduous break between the
most active months of your year. Summer is a time
for blockbusters; buildings on fire, fast cars, lusty
leading ladies - you know something's got to get
hijacked. There is nothing more to blockbusters
than an escape during those putridly hot months
that divide up Michigan's putridly long winters.
They strike at the core of what makes America
great: our longing to see Will Smith fight robots.
Nay, our confidence that the movie industry won't
let us down every time we want to see him fight
robots ... or aliens ... or robotic aliens. This sum-
mer was no different - blockbusters dominated
the landscape. Thank you, America.
Shrek 2
Released:May 19
As if the success of "Finding Nemo" last sum-
mer wasn't enough to prove the power of com-
puter animation, Dreamworks's ogre sequel
raked in some green of its own. What could have
turned out to be a half-hearted effort instead
rivaled the original in terms of humor and origi-
nality. From Shrek to Donkey, all the characters
clicked with audiences. Best of all was the addi-
tion of Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas), who
upon first appearance would seem to be every-
thing that the first movie derided, but became
a humorous foil for Shrek and his noble steed.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Warner Bros
Released: June 4
Described by some as the greatest fantasy film
ever made, the "Harry Potter" franchise took a
step towards the macabre storytelling and brash
imagery of the later books with "Harry Potter and
the Prisoner of Azkaban." In direct contrast to the
first two films, "Azkaban" feels much darker and
much more visceral than any storytelling thus far.
The characters have aged, and as a result, the story
was forced to mature. Combined with a strikingly
adept visual style and emotional force displayed
by the entire cast, "Azkaban" will surely propel
the series toward unparalleled heights.
Fahrenheit 9/11
Lion's Gate/IFC/Fellowship Adventure Group
Released: June 23"
Hyped beyond expectation even before it
saw stateside release (due in large part to a tri-
umphant visit to Cannes), filmmaker Michael
Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," a critical examina-
tion of the Bush administration's actions in the
wake of Sept. 11, was clearly the most talked-


Whats zin a name.?

Courtesy or Warner Bros.

Wicked witches of the west.

about film of the summer. Released amid con-
troversy from both the left and the right wings,
"Fahrenheit" is the epitome of Moore's career: a
scorching, personal statement on the state of war
in the U.S. and abroad, with a touch of his own
sense of humor, pop culture gaiety and in-your-
face filmmaking tactics.
Spider-Man 2
Released: June 30
. "Spider-Man 2" found mild-mannered Peter
Parker (Toby Maguire) juggling his chaotic
double-life as both an overworked student and
the overworked superhuman crime fighter. With
superb performances by both Maguire and new
villain Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina, "Raiders
of the Lost Ark"), better known as the tentacled
"Doc Ock," "Spider-Man 2" added depth to the
characters and the original storyline, and easily
shrugged off the sophomore slump this summer.
I, Robot
20th Century Fox
Released: July 16
Through the lens of a proven formula (Will
Smith + July - "Wild Wild West" = Blockbust-
er) "I, Robot" appeared to be 201" Century Fox's
golden goose of the summer. Unfortunately, to
their dismay, it fell flaccid and ultimately became
one of the summer's true letdowns. Set in the year

2035, robots are an everyday household item and
everyone trusts them, except one man (Smith) who
investigates a crime he believes was perpetrated
by a robot. He discovers a threat far more serious
to the human race. In the end, the biggest problem
with "I, Robot" became its staleness and inabil-
ity to advance past rudimentary facets of science
fiction. The chase scenes and action did little to
push the envelope in the CGI-based industry and
recycled much of the style and charisma of most
science fiction films.
Released: July 9
Riding high off the success of last winter's
"Elf," former "Saturday Night Live" staple Will
Ferrell attempted to make a giant leap forward as
a comedian by commandeering the often unfo-
cused "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgun-
dy." Set in late 1970s San Diego, Calif., Ferrell
plays Burgundy, the city's top-rated anchorman,
who finds his position threatened by a hotshot
young female journalist (Christina Applegate).
Despite the fact that it was nearly missing a plot,
"Anchorman" was filled with enough one-liners
to make even the most critical eighth-grader grin.
Still, Ferrell's oft-imitable act couldn't hold the
ship afloat alone.
- Compiled by Adam Rottenberg
and Alex Wolsky

e rise of the compact disc is a sur-
*prisingly detested revolution -
audiophiles the world over still speak
glowingly of the warmth and sound quality
LPs possessed. Almost as frequently dis-
cussed is the lost art of the album cover. And
where audiophiles may be drastically under-
estimating the convenience of not having to
put down your beer to hear the second side
of Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland, they're
harder to argue with on album art. The rise
of the CD and - God forbid - the MP3 has
left artists with a drastically reduced surface
on which to visually draw in the listener.
So while there's little debate to be had
over the quality of album art, there is an
underrated - if not crucial - component
of albums that should be discussed: album
titles. Musicians have more or less been
stumbling over album titles since someone
decided to try and sell more than one song
at a time.
Of course, the main reason no one - not
even the relatively unoccupied audiophiles
- talks about album titles is the follow-
ing: They are absolutely inconsequential.
Whereas a grand cover, say Sgt. Pepper's
Lonely Hearts Club Band, can announce
with ringing finality the existence of a fine
piece of art, an album title means virtu-
ally nothing. Surely, if Dave Matthews, an
endless well of awkward lyrical construc-
tions, can come up with something vaguely
intriguing like Under the Table and Dream-
ing, then a finely worded, lyrical title can't
mean much, can it?
Similarly, a terrible title is no guarantee,
either. Led Zeppelin simply numbered their
first four albums, the Beatles didn't bother
naming one of their best (The Beatles) and
The Rolling Stones managed to drop whop-
pers like Goat's Head Soup. The Who,
another of rock's venerable institutions, kept
giving us "clever" titles like Who's Next and
Who Are You? Such evidence would seem
to rend any conversation on this topic use-
less. Absolutely inconsequential, right?
In some ways, yes. On the other hand, a
fine album title can draw listeners in, add-
ing yet another element to a realized piece of
art. One of the reasons titles get talked about
so rarely is because there are no guidelines
by which to judge them. Whereas album art
can be evaluated on a purely visual aesthetic,
and albums themselves can be judged on the
music, album titles play such a minor role in
the "art" of popular music that no one has
bothered to evaluate them.
Of course, the main qualification of an
album title is that it should properly evoke
the mood, ambience and construction of an
album. Of course, this is purely subjective,
and something more rigorous is necessary.
First, an album title must be more than a
utilitarian name of a long-player. This rules
out almost everything before the '60s, where
fans were treated to gems like Sinatra Sings

...of Love and Things and The Gospel Soul
of Aretha Franklin. Hell, even more tradi-
tionally "artistic performers, such as The
Beatles and Bob Dylan, ended up naming
their early albums Meet the Beatles and
Another Side ofBob Dylan.
Album titles should be more than sim-
ply a rehash of one of the song titles. While
it's true that there are some fantastic album
titles - Sgt. Pepper's, White Light/White
Heat - named after songs, and that these
songs often evoke the mood and themes of
the album well, songs are generally named
before the album, and most instances of
rehashing can be chalked up to a lack of
creativity. Extra lame points are given for
naming your album after your hit song -
thank you Hotel California and Wish You
Were Here.
So with those guides in place, it's high-
time to take a look at some of history's best
album titles. The best, of course, will not
only follow the rules listed but cement the
album's place in history. The Rolling Stones
struck gold with Exile on Main Street and
Sticky Fingers, perfectly capturing the
dirty, isolated essence and dark sexuality of
their best work. Dylan was able to use his
non-sequitur wordplay to make Blonde on
Blonde one of the most recognizable titles
in rock'n'roll.
More recently, New York's Liars, have
made a name for themselves with clever
titles such as They Threw Us AlIn a Trench
and Stuck a Monument On Top.
Hip-hop, despite it's relatively brief his-
tory, has managed to produce a surprising
amount of fantastic album titles. Public
Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to
Hold Us Back and Fear of a Black Planet
are both classics, as is De La Soul's 3 Feet
High and Rising.
Of course, for every example of a master
wordsmith, there are just as many classic art-
ists who never really cut it naming their clas-
sics. Lou Reed, both as a solo artist and as
the ringmaster of the Velvet Underground,
never came up with a transcendent title.
All of this is still highly subjective and
somewhat ridiculous. But the point of this
column wasn't to provide the definitive dis-
course on album titles, but rather to bring
to light an argument that isn't had nearly
enough, even among notoriously contentious
audiophiles: the best album titles of all time.
Come on, you know you want them: my five
favorite album titles, in no particular order
Astral Weeks (Van Morrison), It Takes a
Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (Public
Enemy), Slanted & Enchanted (Pavement),
Remain In Light (The Talking Heads) and
There's a Riot Goin' On (Sly and the Family

'Andrew" is a pretty terrible
name. Send suggestions for a
new one to agaerig@umich.edu

'Folkloric Feel' a dense, Cuban-inspired gem

By Andrew M. Gaerig
Daily Arts Music Editor

World music influences have made
surprisingly few inroads into the under-
ground music scene. Considering how

many indie rockers
out adjectives like
"rapturous" and
"emotional" for
hours of unadorned
feedback loops, it's
perplexing that
Latin or African
music has been

are willing to spit

Apostle of
Folkloric Feel
Arts & Crafts

man's "Looks Just Like the Sun," from
Broken Social Scene's You Forgot It In
People, was a soulful, acoustic slither
amid the rush of guitars and keyboard
that filled the rest of the album. It was
the reason nine out of 10 reviewers
labeled the album "sublime," and it set
a high bar for Whiteman's solo debut,
as Apostle of Hustle, Folkloric Feel,
an album heavily influenced by time
Whiteman spent in Cuba.
Judging by the overt title and some-
what contrived cover art, one might
worry that Whiteman might be indulg-
ing his acoustic side just a bit too much.
After all, aside from "Looks Just Like
the Sun," Whiteman's most important
contributions to Broken Social Scenes
were his sinewy, electric guitar lines.
Fortunately, Whiteman managed
to both play to his acoustic, singer/
songwriter urges and compose dense,
instrumental passages. The reason, as
it turns out, is Whiteman's fine taste in
collaborators: He employs several mem-
bers of Broken Social Scene, as well as

members of the Toronto music scene
that were collaborators on Apostle of
Hustle before Broken Social Scene took
off towards indie stardom. It's these
collaborators - and the winding, psy-
chedelic compositions they help weave
- that keep AoH from feeling like a
side project.
Shy acoustic noodling opens the
album before settling into a sturdy, fin-.
ger-picked melody. Stuttering drums,
a steady bass, and an avalanche of
found sounds build to a busy zenith.
It'd be classic post-rock if Whiteman's
arrangements and soft, affecting vocals
didn't give it an air of warmth and
"Energy of Death" is lifted by a
muted horn section, its sugary mel-
ody hidden in a haze of tape fuzz but
sounding triumphant nonetheless.
"Sleepwalking Ballad" is anything but,
finding momentum in heavily affected
guitars and a sturdy rhythm. "Animal
Fat" sleepwalks through its verses, but
its cresting, transcendent chorus melo-

dy sounds all the better for it. "Recall
the dying ember / Is that all you can
remember ... The stone-age knife is
blunt and bloody / I thought you were
a quicker study" he intones over a dis-
torted choir of voices.
Whiteman's desire to expand his
sound on Folkloric Feel helped him
sidestep the "afterthought" side-project
syndrome, but it also unfortunately bur-
ied the Latin music influences that made
"Looks Just Like the Sun" so initially
intriguing, and so superior to anything
on this album. And while the outstand-
ing arrangements and inspired song-
writing still make Folkloric a rousing
success, one does wonder how White-
man would've fared without all the
fuss. Either way, he's proved his contri-
bution to Broken Social Scene was no
fluke: Whiteman is nothing less than an
inspired, unique musician, capable of
both rustic laments and post-rock fury.
If he could separate the two, he might
have an album much better than Folk-
loric Feel in him somewhere.

embraced by so few. Sure, occasion-
ally a band like Calexico - who make
splendid use of Latin music - catches
on, but the examples are few and far
This is why a world music influence
- especially in the context of an other-
wise straightforward indie-rock album
- can be such a shock. Andrew White-

I'm from Canada and they think I'm slow ... eh?

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