The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Looking at my list of favorite albums of the past year illustrates why serious music fans like to follow artists. They’re going to grow, evolve, please us, frustrate us and sometimes surprise us.
1. David Byrne and St. Vincent, Love This Giant - Talking Heads were the greatest band ever. Period. They were an intriguing collective anchored by Kentucky’s own Chris Frantz on the drums. But at the center of it all was quirky frontman David Byrne whose interests guided the Heads through projects like True Stories and his own career through collaborations with Twyla Tharp, Brian Eno and many, many others. When I heard he was teaming with idiosyncratic artist St. Vincent, my immediate thought was, “That’s perfect!” But it was so much more than that. Love This Giant is a constantly renewing journey with two brilliant minds all anchored in brass and as exquisitely crafted as we’d expect.
2. Jack White, Blunderbuss – We have always heard Jack White in the context of bands such as The White Stripes and The Raconteurs, but knew he was the driving force and individual voice behind those acts. His solo debut brought White’s vision into full focus with two same-sex bands backing him on tracks that renewed his strongest influences. A lot of artists play the blues, but few play it like White.
3. Frank Ocean, Channel Orange – Hip hop and R&B are genres full of posturing cool, so it was refreshing when Frank Ocean stepped onto the stage at Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and hung himself out there with his performance of Bad Religion, a confession of an unrequited love for another man. The story was intriguing; the album was an engrossing meditation on being a young man trying to navigate the world.
4. Lana Del Rey, Born to Die – One of the most polarizing artists of the year, you either loved her stylized, morosely idealized West Coast mope or you thought she was a complete fake — a previous career under another name fueling that perception. I loved it. At times, she tried a bit too hard. But overall, Born to Die was an astonishingly complete and compelling vision for a young artist I want to hear more from.
5. Mumford & Sons, Babel – Mumford & Sons had a strong following for a genre band when Babel was released this fall. This release just strengthened it, showing the British band’s take on American roots sounds was a genuine exploration of its possibilities. It also affirmed this is a band we will be listening to years from now.
Best single: Locked Out of Heaven by Bruno Mars. The man is a flat-out entertainer, as his Grammy Awards and Saturday Night Live performances showed. Locked out of Heaven, which closes out the year riding high on the charts, is an addictive collection of hooks brilliantly produced to showcase one of the decade’s strongest voices.
With Christmas week approaching, I am looking forward to finally making a date with our 16th president and Middle-earth.
The movie Lincoln, of course, has been out over a month and I’ve yet to see it. Last weekend, I was one of the potential (but, in the end, absent) viewers of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey who kept it from bringing in more than its disappointing $84.8 million opening-weekend box office.
I was psyched to see director Peter Jackson’s latest vision of a J.R.R. Tolkien classic, but there were family events to attend to, gifts still to buy and other holiday responsibilities. Between the job, the kids’ school activities and other demands, it was hard to come up with the time needed to take these cinematic journeys.
Why? Lincoln is two hours, 30 minutes. The Hobbit is longer: two hours, 49 minutes.
Then there’s Les Misérables, another movie on my to-see list. It opens Tuesday, Christmas Day, and clocks in at two hours, 37 minutes. And that’s not even counting the 10 to 15 minutes of commercials, previews and turn-off-your-cell-phone messages tacked on to the front of features these days.
But this is just part of the contemporary holiday movie season: Prestige flicks stalk for awards, opening just days before the Academy Awards’ Dec. 31 deadline, and challenge our appointment calendars and bladders with their prestigious running times.
This year, I actually started thinking about extensive movie running times in an odd place: while writing about performances of Handel’s Messiah and how Lexington music directors edit that epic piece to make it more palatable to audiences. The top reason they say they edit Messiah is because it runs nearly three hours when done in its entirety. Nobody wants to sit through something that long, the directors think.
Clearly Steven Spielberg and many other film directors believe otherwise. More and more, it seems, any film with a tinge of gravitas clocks in at well over two hours.
It’s Christmas morning, and you and the family have gathered around the tree to open presents.
Your youngest gets that certain something they have been dying for, and embraces it with the perfect “squeeeee!” expression.
And you got the shot with your smartphone. Excited, you want to share it with all your friends and family.
But you might want to think twice about sharing it on Instagram.
In the latest social media privacy and intellectual property kerfuffle, Instagram released new terms of service that have users up in arms because they effectively give it and parent company Facebook the right to use any images posted on the service in any way they please, including advertising.
The terms of service, set to be effective Jan. 16, say, “You agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”
The professional photography world has been particularly outraged by this as photographers are used to being compensated for their images, particularly when working with commercial interests. The idea that a major company could just grab their picture, even one shot with a cellphone camera, and sell with no remuneration it is anathema to them.
The move even drew the ire of Facebook founder and owner Mark Zuckerberg’s wedding photographer, Noah Kalina, who tweeted, “pro or not if a company wants to use your photos for advertising they need to TELL you and PAY you.”But even a lot of casual shooters would expect some compensation if their picture was out there making money for someone else. And then there’s the privacy issue. You snapped that picture for your private use, and to show to your friends — though yes, we have been told over and over that nothing on the Internet is truly private. To have it show up in an ad would feel creepy at best.
Since this firestorm broke, there has been a calm-yourself crowd making points from Instagram’s policy may not hold up in court, though presumably it has been crafted by lawyers, to “no one’s going to buy pictures of your food.”
One of the challenges that faced the now-closed Ichthus Festival and vexes other Christian rock presenters these days is a relatively small group of acts that can be legitimately billed as headliners.
There are plenty of bands and solo artists that can ably fill opening and smaller stage slots. But as far as Christian artists that can top a bill and attract audiences in the thousands and even tens of thousands, it’s a fairly small and somewhat stagnant club.
“There just aren’t a lot of headliners in Christian music,” says Mark Vermilion, the last executive director of Ichthus, which announced it was closing earlier this month after 42 continuous years.
“When there are so few headliners, it creates problems for us because they are so saturated with tours like Winter Jam and other festivals. We all have to go to the same well to get headliners.”
Tim Gerst, a Central Kentucky native who has worked in numerous aspects of Christian music, says, “The industry needs to figure something out because it’s hard to attract audiences when you consistently present the same 6 to 8 bands.”
Generating excitement about the acts at the top of the bill is harder when that group headlined the previous year or topped the bill at another festival or their own headlining tour that recently passed through the area. The groups have headliner status because they are widely liked, but the novelty can wear off.
This year’s edition of the Winter Jam tour, which stops at Rupp Arena in March, will feature Tobymac, 48, who just headlined at Ichthus. Last year’s Winter Jam presented the same situation with Skillet.
Skillet, with its pyrotechnic spectacle of a show, headlined Friday Night at Ichthus for several years until this year, when the spot was taken by Red, one of the few acts to emerge as a legitimate headliner in the last few years. Red is also coming back on Winter Jam.
In fact, every headlining artist at this year’s Ichthus had headlined the event before, including worship artist Chris Tomlin, who closed the festival for the second straight year.
Vermillion says the shallow pool of headliners for big events has come up at meetings of Christian Festival Association, not just because of the small pool, but it is aging too.
University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra conductor John Nardolillo was in Boston last weekend to conduct two performances of the Boston Pops Orchestra. He was filling in for Maestro Keith Lockhart, who was with the Pops Esplanade Orchestra at some run out dates in New England.
The Pops’ holiday shows are a Boston tradition playing dozens of dates for thousands of patrons. In addition to making beautiful music, Nardolillo’s duties included leading the audience in a sing-along portion of the show and welcoming Santa Claus to the stage. His engagement was the latest chapter in a growing relationship between UK and the Pops. Here are few photos from the weekend, courtesy of the Boston Pops.
Before taking a holiday break, Saturday Night Live announced that Louisville native and white-hot movie star Jennifer Lawrence will host the show’s first edition of 2013 on Jan. 19. The musical guest will be Denver-based folk rockers The Lumineers.
Lawrence was catapulted to A-List status in the past year with her starring role as Katniss Everdeen in the post-apocalyptic blockbuster The Hunger Games. She has since gained rave reviews and Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for her performance in the quirky comedy Silver Linings Playbook. She is considered a strong contender for an Oscar nomination for the same role. It would be the second Oscar nomination for Lawrence, 22, who was nominated for best actress in 2011 for her performance in Winter’s Bone (2010).
Silver Linings Playbook is about an odd relationship that forms between Lawrence’s character, Tiffany, and Bradley Cooper as Pat, who is undergoing treatment for bipolar disorder as the movie opens. The film has not opened yet in Lexington but is playing in Louisville and Cincinnati.
Jan. 19 will be Lawrence’s first turn hosting Saturday Night Live.
The Lexington Tattoo Project will take a poem about the city by area writer Bianca Spriggs, split it up and spread it across the bodies of more than 200 residents. At press time, Todorova said 227 participants had agreed to have a word or phrase from the poem tattooed on their bodies by Robert Alleyne of Charmed Life Tattoo. The tattoos will be designed by Gohde and Todorova, who will create a video work of the project featuring the overall design for the poem. They said the design will not be known to anyone but themselves and Alleyne until the video is complete.
Todorova said tattooing is scheduled to take place through January; the entire project will be complete in June.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich