Why Wes Anderson’s So Damn Good

(Or At Least A Partial Explanation)

By Leo Ziegler

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Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel is due out in theaters early next year. The Texas born writer/director has been inviting us into his peculiar, idiosyncratic world for nearly 20 years. From its recently released trailer, this newest film promises a view into another part of Anderson’s storybook.

How, exactly, did this world begin?

wes-anderson-bill-murrayWith every auteur, every project builds upon previously established themes. Noah Baumbach (occasional Anderson collaborator) and Darren Aronofsky, along with other filmmakers who have started their careers around the same time as Wes Anderson and have equally unique voices, have had varying degrees of success – critically and commercially. A few who had started off with a fiercely independent voice eventually found their way to studio films, such as Baumbach writing DreamWorks’ Madagascar 3 or David Gordon Green directing Pineapple Express and The Sitter

Somehow, Anderson has been able to tell his stories in his unique style, continually pushing the boundaries he already established, and has been rewarded not only with critical success, but commercial success as well. It’s almost as if he walks into a studio executive’s office and says, “Oh, you thought that last film was a little off? Wait until you hear about this one.” And, somehow, they give him money and let him do exactly what he wants. It might not hurt that, early on in his career, Anderson befriended James L. Brooks – Terms of Endearment, Broadcast News and, oh yeah, The Simpsons. I guess, with that sort of clout backing you, you get a bit of a free pass.

Even the most benevolent mega-producer or director will pull back the reigns  if his investment wesmoonriseisn’t making any money.  (Those Simpsons bucks only take you so far.)  Worldwide: Anderson’s films have grossed more than $273 million.  The average summer blockbuster often costs that much and struggles to make a profit. (Unless, of course, it’s directed by Christopher Nolan or Joss Whedon.)

Now, I can break down Anderson’s career film by film. What would that prove, though? Yes, he is a quirky filmmaker that boarders occasionally on cartoonish. Filmmakers like that are a dime a dozen. They debut at Sundance to huge acclaim, maybe make a couple of bucks at the box office, and bomb with their sophomore film. After that, they either fall farther down the rabbit hole of bizarro indie films or jump from network to network directing the latest shows. 

12-Bottle-RocketYes, Anderson did debut his short film Bottle Rockets to much acclaim at Sundance. After adapting Rockets into a feature film, Anderson surrogate Jason Schwartzman took us farther down the rabbit hole. Rushmore introduced us fully to the world of silly names and character-defining costumes only previously hinted at.

Costumes will claim the center stage in The Royal Tenenbaums, and there they will stay. Whether it’s Ben Stiller’s tracksuit or Adrien Brody’s oversized glasses in The Darjeeling Limited, these visual shortcuts help to ground the viewer in these  often-peculiar worlds.

The costumes, the off-kilter sets and locations, the silly names: These all buffer often dark stories of loss and obsession. If it weren’t for this sort of childish mise-en-scène, The Life Aquatic would be even more depressing, and the Romeo & Juliet story Moonrise Kingdom would be a rather disturbing film about an abandoned child clinging to whatever love he will allow himself.

Perhaps that’s why we love his films. The dichotomy of incredibly intense stories in a fantasy, childlike world allow us relate to the characters but, at the same time, distance us from them. That’s the educated perception of why Anderson has been so successful; maybe the film-going population just need a cinematic sorbet between giant-robot movies and dumb action movies. 

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You Blew It’s Debut Album Brings the Sad Back!

By Andrew Mathwick


If I were 16, and still in High School, You Blew It’s debut album, Grow Up, Dude would be the soundtrack to my existence. The Orlando based Alternative-Emo group released Grow Up, Dude under Topshelf Records last year, and I haven’t stopped crying since. Citing inspiration from, The Get Up Kids, and American Football they take the listener back to a time in the late 90s where being Emo didn’t mean having really-bad-looking straightened hair, or owning more than zero pairs of neon colored jeans (no gimmicks here). But instead, lyrics that actually meant something. And with some of the saddest sounding guitar riffs, since Four Minute Mile we truly get to think about death (in a good way).

“When will I see that superstitions mean everything?” Is painfully-sung twice on the 51 second opening song, leading us into what will be a heart-wrenching 35 minute no-girls-allowed-inspired album. As the record progresses we are handed different themes about relationships and heartbreak. The 4th song on the album, “Terry Vs. Tori” begins with Tanner Jones (lead vocalist) crying/screaming into the mic, “I’m usually not one to pick fights, but you really crossed the line, this time,” followed by an iconic opening chord, instantly reminding me of how much girls suck!! And, more importantly the classic song Don’t Hate Me by The Get Up Kids.

A perfect example of how You Blew It! captured that late 90s sound perfectly. The on-purpose-low-quality sounding recorded instruments also add to that 90s essence, and compliment the cry-style vocals very well. Every song on Grow Up, Dude has in-a-good-way-depressing lyrics and sound but, Track 10, “I’m Bill Paxton” serves as a more upbeat track. This is a nice contrast to the majority of the album’s slower-less-happy-feely songs. This track almost gives the listener the feeling that things will be ok! Until we are just torn back down on the very next song (yay!!).

Listening to this album makes you wonder, “Is Orlando a more depressing city then we all thought??!?!?” A place you wouldn’t expect an Emo-album with this caliber of realness and sadness to come out of. Considering that, that late 90s genre has more of a home in the MidWest. The Get Up Kids, American Football, The Promise Ring, and Cap’n Jazz all big names of that genre, all came from Midwestern States. It’s however, impressive and intriguing to see an album like this come from The Sunshine State (Sadshine State??). Normally, when thinking of Orlando, I’d think of Disney World or the birthplace of two members of not only ‘N Sync, but also, The Backstreet Boys!! Regardless, I’m happy to see that You Blew It! can prove to me that no matter where you live you can be very sad in a very good way.

While I admit that if you’re unfamiliar with this album or even this type of music you may not like it. It’s definitely an acquired taste. But, I truly believe it’s one worth acquiring and hopefully, eventually loving. Grow Up, Dude is an album I highly recommend.

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Vanguards of Creativity

Top Experimental Record Labels

By Luis Antonio Miguel


In 1964, bandleader, engineer and electronic music pioneer Raymond Scott released his groundbreaking album Soothing Sounds for Baby, a collection of minimalist, structurally experimental compositions for electronic keyboards that heralded the advent of ambient music over a decade before the likes of Tangerine Dream and Brian Eno were major players in the musical scene. The record did poorly on the charts and, like most of Scott’s electronic pieces, gained a public audience only through licensing to cartoons and IBM radio spots. Today, the album and artist have a widely dispersed audience of thousands. If Mr. Scott were alive, he would be surprised to see the loyalty of the fans that his experimental works have generated. 

What has changed between then and now? In addition to a contemporary culture whose artistic sensibility favors the alternative and avant garde, technological advancements have made it possible for experimental music-makers to connect to listeners eager for something far outside the mainstream. With the internet, musicians are no longer limited by geography. They are able to market and distribute their music to individuals across the globe. 

Today’s musical experimenters are more autonomous than ever, an advantage made possible by the availability of software synthesizer or home recording platforms like Logic Pro and FL Studio. Their creations are normally classified as electronic, New Age, ambient, space music, trance, house and Chill-out. However, many of these artists play with form and arrangement to a degree that makes it difficult to formally categorize them. These musicians are supported by a group of record labels that value creativity above popular appeal. These labels act as vanguards and fomenters of contemporary musical integrity. The following list consists of the top five experimental music labels. The labels on the list earned their spot because in addition simply selling cds, they serve as digital gathering centers for the musical community and offer invaluable information related to their selected genres.

Groove Unlimited

rbGroove Unlimited is the child of Dutch synthesizer musician Ron Boots. Boots has been making music professionally since 1986 and is a leader of the third generation of electronic musicians. He founded Groove in 1990 as a way to improve access to his own recordings, as well as those of his peers and predecessors. Groove is dedicated to all forms of electronic music: ambient, melodic, Berlin School, space music, retro. The catalogue, which consists of Groove exclusives and acquisitions from other labels, comprises more than 2,000 titles. Groove artists include Gert Emmens of the Netherlands, Nattefrost of Denmark and Cadenced Heaven of Bangladesh. The label also distributes albums by more well-known artists like Klaus Schulze, Jean-Michel Jarre and Tangerine Dream.

Regular Publication? Groove Unlimited has a blog, but it is scarcely updated. You can also sign up for a weekly newsletter related to Boots’ podcast, Dreamscape.

Podcast? Yes. Ron Boots hosts a weekly podcast titled Dreamscape, which plays music by the likes of Vangelis, Mike Oldfield and select Groove artists.

Accepts Demo Submissions? Yes. See Groove’s prospective artist page for submission guidelines.

AD Music

davidwright10Electronic musician David Wright launched AD Music in 1988 as a distribution vehicle for his recordings. The label expanded when Wright partnered with Robert Fox to form ambient group Code Indigo; Fox merged his own label, FX Music, to AD and thus grew the company’s catalogue. The leaders of AD Music coined the term “Evolutionary Ambient” as a way to classify their eclectic repertoire, which they describe as “electronic, experimental and esoteric.” In addition to Wright and Fox, notable artists on the AD label include folk-influenced Steve Orchard, New-Age luminary Bekki Williams and space-music duo Enterphase.

Regular Publication? AD Music has a regularly updated blog that details album releases and concerts.

Podcast? Yes. AD’s unique two-hour radio show, “Zero Hour,” airs every Tuesday. A podcast is available for every show in case you miss an episode.

Accepts Demo Submissions? Yes. See site for demo submission guidelines.

GLM Music Company

ExperimentMusicGLM provides a diverse collection of world music that appeals to a variety of tastes. The majority of GLM artists use acoustic instruments and ethnic styles. GLM runs four different labels, each with a different musical emphasis. The “Fine Music” label offers a pleasing blend of jazz, pop, folk and orchestral; artists include German acoustic quartet Quadro Nuevo and violinist Martina Eisenreich. “Impulso” showcases artists who fuse reggae, latin, soul, funk, ska and rock. “Edition Collage” features the lively modern jazz music of Mind Games and Hugo Siegmeth, among others. “Dinner Music” consists of rhythmic, mellow instrumentals with pop and orchestral elements.

Regular Publication? GLM sends a quarterly newsletter that highlights their latest album releases and artist information.

Podcast? No.

Accepts Demo Submissions? Yes. See demo page for submission guidelines.

Basta Music

4131A1GNWPL. SL500 AA300 Basta specializes in preserving the works of the pre-1970s forefathers of experimental music. It acquires and releases obscure records by artists who exhibit quirky and playful musical tendencies. Established artists whose works have been rereleased by Basta include Moog synthesizer wizard Jean-Jacques Perrey, orchestral composer Andre Popp, Space-Age band-leader Juan Garcia Esquivel and the great Raymond Scott. The contemporary roster features groups like Dutch electronic ensemble Schnauzer Radio Orchestra, the legendary and eccentric Metropole Orchestra and melodica player Martin Fondse.

Regular Publication? Basta features a regularly updated blog.

Podcast? No.

Accepts Demo Submissions? Basta Music has fluctuating space for new artists. To find out if Basta is currently accepting submissions, write them at their contact page.

Ghostly International

com-truise-4-hires 700x700 resizedGhostly is an all-in-one source for original alternative art. Since its inception in 1999, Ghostly has faithfully served the experimental pop/techno community. Besides its record label, Ghostly operates an art gallery, music publishing company and clothing design service. Major artists on the Ghostly lineup are hip-hop fusion DJ Dabyre, synth-wave innovator Com Truise and Denmark-based orchestral-pop band Choir of Young Believers.

Regular Publication? Yes. Ghostly allows you to subscribe to its “semi-regular” newsletter, which features updates, news and offers.

Podcast? No. However, Ghostly International offers a music service via drip.fm through which you receive every new Ghostly release, along with bonus tracks and behind-the-scenes access, directly to your email address for a low monthly fee.

Accepts Demo Submissions? Yes (via Soundcloud only). See Ghostly International’s submission page for more information.

Give the above sites a visit to experience the best of modern-day musical experimentation. If you are a musician, send a demo to become part of the innovation.     

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Burning Love:

Pushing Boundaries and Making History

By Sam Davidson


Whether you are a die-hard fan of The Bachelor franchise, a closeted fan, or are forced to watch by your significant other, there is no denying that The Bachelor is one of America’s biggest guilty pleasures. The Bachelor has made a tremendous impact in the world of television for more than a decade and is now being spoofed by some of your favorite stars in a web series.   Let me introduce to you one of the most hilarious web series around . . . Burning Love. Created by longtime comedy vet Ben Stiller, Burning Love is a full-on mock of the infamous Bachelor franchise and was first aired on Yahoo TV.
While many viewers watch The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and The Bachelor Pad to see people fall in love, others watch purely for the entertainment value. By “entertainment value,” I really mean drunken tears, sloppy make-out sessions, cat fights, fist fights . . . the list of crazy goes on and on.  It is not hard to make fun of this show, and Ben Stiller agrees that this untouched pot of comedy gold must be confronted head-on.

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This leads us to the genius masterminds behind the web series Burning Love. Stiller is one of the many viewers of The Bachelor franchise who saw the comedy in it, and wanted to exploit it with fantastic writing, an insanely good cast, and a great director. That director is none other than the star of the first season of Burning Love and comedy icon Ken Marino.  Marino has been on the comedy scene for years, but has only been directing for the past few. As it turns out, Marino is much more than a great comedic actor and writer—he is a stellar director as well! Burning Love serves as the ultimate platform for both Stiller and Marino to show the world that they are both comedy gods and are truly jacks of all trades.
Marino is only one of the many stars who take a stab at love in this laugh-out-loud parody. In the first season, Marino plays the bachelor/firefighter Mark Orlando, and his lucky ladies include Kristen Bell, Malin Akerman, Natasha Leggero, Ken Jeong (yes, the guy from The Hangover), June Diane Raphael, and a short stint from America’s sweetheart, Jennifer Aniston. The second and third seasons of the series have just as many stars including (but not limited to) Michael Cera, Adam Brody, Adam Scott, Nick Kroll, Ryan Hansen, and Paul Scheer.  Stiller clearly pulled out all of the stops to get these big-name actors and comedians to jump on board, and let me tell you, they do not disappoint.
Burning Love has not only been nominated for an Emmy, but now you can watch all three seasons!  The E! series has made web-series history and has opened up the world to this newer form of media. Typically, web series are limited exclusively to the web; however, now that E! has decided to syndicate the webisodes, it’s a whole new ballgame.  Burning Love has opened the door for other web series to expand on the format by broadcasting on network television. It has also proven to the industry that web series are now a force to be reckoned with. Putting aside the fact that Burning Love was created by a huge movie star, it has established that web series can be just as successful as a television series and can draw in just as many viewers on a smaller budget.  Also, this little web series that could has proved to stars that a) there is no shame in doing a web series, and b) the time commitment is small, but the reward/fan following potentially be huge!
Will this new form of media make it even harder for big TV networks to make money? Possibly, but it could also help networks begin thinking more outside of the box as opposed to going by the books.  Media and entertainment are constantly changing and evolving, and Burning Love is a great example of that.  Not only did Burning Love create something very special in terms of comedy and spoofs, but now with its deal with E!, Burning Love has taken web content to a whole new level.
If you missed Burning Love, watch the first episode of Season 1!

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