November Music Reviews: Florence and the Machine, David Lynch, Atlas Sound

 

Florence and the MachineCeremonials (Island Records) That Florence Welch nominally aligned herself with the machine makes good sense. Since the 2009 release of her chart-topping debut, Lungs, the 25-year-old English singer has transformed into something of a juggernaut, steamrolling through glossy editorials, awards ceremonies, and multicontinental tours. On her latest effort, produced by Paul Epworth—fresh from Adele’s 21—Welch swaps her pre-Raphaelite look for the harder-edged Modernism of Tamara Lempicka (don’t worry, she’s still a redhead). Recorded at Abbey Road Studios, Ceremonials trades in big themes—no less than love and death, guilt and violence—without seeming grandiose, and the result is every bit as rousing as Lungs. On single “Shake It Out,” a return to form is a step forward for Welch. –Megan Conway

 
David LynchCrazy Clown Time (Sunday Best Recordings) For fans, David Lynch’s break from filmmaking has been disconcerting. But it’s a comfort to know the enigmatic and fundamentally unsettling nature of his work is still alive, even if it arrives in the form of his new album, Crazy Clown Time. Though described by the director as “blues-inspired but not blues,” the music faithfully reflects that most American of genres. You can almost see the radiating blue light of Mulholland Drive’s Club Silencio (now a real club in Paris, backed by Lynch). The 14-song record seduces you into a haunted dream world, and if that sounds familiar, it’s because the music shares many elements with Lynch’s past collaborations with Angelo Badalamenti. “Strange and Unproductive Thinking” is essentially a spoken-word manifesto on how dental health effects mental health, while the title track approximates a psychosexual teen nightmare à la pre-elastic Laura Palmer. If you’re truly Lynch-obsessed, you’ll revel in the eccentricities, but if you’re just tuning in for the hype, you might need a lobotomy afterwards. —Hillary Weston
 
WimWim (Modular Records) Aussie quintet WIM arrives in the States via Modular Records, home to a bevy of successful, eccentric musicians, including Architecture in Helsinki, Ladyhawke, the Rapture, and Cut Copy. But the group’s emotive, piano-based melodies and strong vocal harmonies are a strange fit for the label’s aesthetic. Their sound builds methodically and at times a little too conventionally, which can make their self-titled album a bit pedestrian. “John,” the strongest track, breaks away from the pack with its beautiful accordion introduction and innovative use of vocals at the bridge. Despite the lukewarm debut, though, WIM has promise, and with Modular backing them, they’re sure to succeed in this hemisphere.—Dana Drori
 
KorallrevenAn Album by Korallreven (Acéphale Records) The debut effort from Swedish trance pop artists Daniel Tjäder (also of the Radio Dept.) and Marcus Joons, known collectively as Korallreven, follows closely on the heels of their ambitious August mix, A Dream Within a Dream. “As Young as Yesterday” sets an ambient tone for the 10 tracks, with breathy vocals from Taken by Trees singer Victoria Bergsman (who appears twice on the album) layered over a hypnotic medley of 808s and acoustic guitar. The result is as a crisp as autumn in Stockholm, punctuated by sudden bursts from electronic synths and drums to kick up the groove. —Nadeska Alexis
 
Carter TantonFreeclouds (Western Vinyl) The name may not ring a bell, but odds are good you’re familiar with Carter Tanton’s work: the New York-based musician used to front the band Tulsa, and his captivating vocal skills were showcased on the group’s much-heralded, My Morning Jacket–like 2007 EP I Was Submerged. Now a member of indie-rock outfit the Lower Dens, the singer-songwriter still managed to carve out some time to record and release his solo debut, Freeclouds. A number of the songs—not to mention the title—were inspired by David Bowie’s 1969 “Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud.” Tanton skillfully weaves his own bittersweet tales—all steeped in nostalgic Americana—over eclectic samples and twanging guitar chords. —NA
 
Atlas SoundParallax (4AD) Much like the albums that preceded it, Bradford Cox’s third solo effort, Parallax, features the Deerhunter frontman’s soothing and experimental sounds, but the LP is surprisingly poppy and uplifting, too. Traces of catchy rock songs can be found on tracks like “The Shakes” and “Te Amo.” Even melancholy terrain like “My Angel is Broken” is set against upbeat guitar riffs. Cox’s lyrics take center stage here, often repeating in succession to create rhythms that all but hypnotize the listener. The elegiac “Terra Incognita” and the folksy, haunting “Flagstaff” (which evolves into an experiment in lo-fi soundwaves) represent the album’s rare dark moments, but Cox raises the tempo for “Nightworks,” ending with an optimistic bang. —DD
 
Noel GallagherNoel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (Sour Mash/Mercury Records) More than a decade ago, a then fresh-faced Pete Doherty called Oasis’ Liam Gallagher “a town crier” and his brother, Noel, “a poet.” On High Flying Birds, Noel’s first full-length solo effort, the British rocker puts the full range of his rhapsodic talent on display—sans heavy guitars. Free from the confines of the band, he ventures into new territory while holding fast to his poetry. Instruments vary from song to song, shifting from moody minor keys to brassy oomph. The big band sound on “The Death of You and Me” is a throwback to ’70s Kinks. —HW

Hearts on Fire: Felicity Jones Breaks Out in the Wrenching Romance ‘Like Crazy’

Felicity Jones is in need of a pep talk. Tomorrow, the petite brunette—who in person looks like a graduate-student version of Audrey Hepburn—will head to Los Angeles to begin the final leg of the promotional tour for her new film, Like Crazy. Reporters, bloggers, and curious fans will grill the 27-year-old about her role in the vérité romance, and she will oblige them. “I’m getting to talk about something I really believe in,” she says. “If it were anything less than that, it would be much harder.” When the questions inevitably turn personal, Jones will instinctively tighten up. Like Crazy emerged from obscurity to win the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, igniting a bidding war won by Paramount. Jones was awarded the special Jury Prize for her own work in the bruising love story about the stop-start masochism of a long distance relationship, and she is keenly aware that journalists—this one included—will look to identify links between the actor and her character, Anna.

“What are some tips to give a good interview?” she asks in a British accent that recalls stately country manses. “Because it’s a fine art.” Don’t give stock answers, I tell her, and be as honest as possible. “Right, right, I know, I know, I know” she shoots back as though the answer had been lodged in the back of her brain all along. I suggest she tell more anecdotes, like she would were she sitting on David Letterman’s couch, and she mentions that she admires the one-on-one skills of Ryan Gosling, and his “weird” and “offbeat” remarks. Promoting films aside, Jones finds interviews to be nerve-wracking. “The whole reason you become an actor is, in some way, that you’re interested in escaping yourself,” she says. “The irony is, you have to then spend so much time talking about yourself.” She admits to having felt uneasy on the way to this interview at the Knave Café, a palatial corridor at the Parker Meridien hotel in Manhattan. “And then I realized, don’t try and be anything. Just be you.”

Jones came of age in suburbia, in Bournville, England, the only village in the world with a chocolate bar named in its honor. (It was founded in the 19th century by the Cadbury family to house the company factory workers.) Her parents—her father is a journalist and mother is in advertising—split up when she was three, and by age 11, she was attending an after-school drama club, with dreams of “making a movie about a love affair between two people,” she says, with a hint of sarcasm. After appearing on British television as a regular on shows like The Worst Witch and Cape Wrath, she took three years off to earn a degree in English Literature at Oxford, where she met “weird and wonderful people” who she still counts among her closest friends.

After university, Jones transitioned to features, with a role in Cemetery Junction, a grim take on stalled youth by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. From there, she appeared as Miranda in Julie Taymor’s risky Shakespeare adaptation, The Tempest, and, most recently, as a lovelorn snowboarder in the treacly Chalet Girl, a British Cinderella story set in the Austrian Alps and costarring Gossip Girl’s Ed Westwick. That mountain romance relied heavily on the very genre clichés that Like Crazy so forcefully rejects, and Jones is well aware of that. “As soon as I finished a snowboarding romantic comedy, I knew I was ready for something different.”

Like Crazy was conceived by indie auteur Drake Doremus (who first made waves at Sundance with 2010’s Douchebag), and tracks the story of Jacob (played by Anton Yelchin) and Anna, two intelligent, vulnerable college students in Los Angeles who fall hopelessly in love during a night of heavy-hearted glances and Paul Simon’s Graceland. After graduation, Anna, a British national who’s overstayed her visa, is denied reentry into the United States following what was supposed to be a brief visit home. From there, the film charts the euphoria of their reunions—and the despair of their separation—in a tone that’s natural and true. Gone are the traditional obstacles of Hollywood romances; misunderstandings come not from contrived plot devices, but from unarticulated feelings. “We’re not being didactic or trying to manipulate the audience in any way,” says Jones. “It’s just about these two people trying to be good in a difficult situation.”  

The film’s honesty is a testament to Doremus’ idiosyncratic directing style. His scripts function as detailed, scene-by-scene outlines. Instead of dialogue, there are stage directions. Actors improvise their way through a scene, reaching its conclusion organically. The result is the kind of movie where silence expresses more than words. “Drake is as obsessed with subtext as I am,” says Jones. “His note is always to play against the feeling—never show exactly what you want. So if you’re falling in love with someone, show that you’re trying not to fall in love with them, because that’s more interesting.”

The director’s commitment to realism is so unwavering that for a scene where Anna reads Jacob her poetry, Doremus asked his lead to write the verses herself. With some post-collegiate jitters, Jones spent a late night composing a poem that encapsulates the film’s romantic spirit. Several lines wound up being used as a voiceover in the trailers. (Sample: “I thought I understood it, but I didn’t… Not really. I knew the smudgeness of it. The eagerness of it. The idea of it. Of a you and me.”)

During a pivotal shower scene in the film’s final moments, the camera lingers on Jones’ porcelain face, her dark eyes locked in a stormy gaze. What she’s staring at is not onscreen, but instead, one supposes, off in some faraway past or uncertain future. Ambiguity is the point. A homemade version of the scene, which Jones shot in her apartment after speaking to Doremus over the phone, convinced him to cast her without ever meeting her face-to-face, a huge gamble for a director whose film’s fate rested on the chemistry between his two leads. “It was a gut feeling, really,” explains Doremus. “How she shot herself in her flat, the nuance, not having the urge to perform but to just be. She has an incredible ability to feel a moment and own it without overwhelming it.”

Doremus and Jones worked so well together that he cast her in his next project, a Westchester, New York-set story about a married teacher (Guy Pearce) who falls in love with a student, played by Jones. If Like Crazy examines the addictiveness of romantic love, then Doremus’ follow-up, which wrapped last summer and is still untitled, looks at the fallout from loving two people at the same time. Does Jones, who counts fellow Brits Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley as close friends, get to test her American accent onscreen for the first time? “No, I’m English,” she says, half-giggling. “I think Drake is fascinated by people in alien environments. The character is called Sophie and she’s a lot more internalized than Anna. It’s a much darker, more complicated story. But for my next project I’m hoping to play an American.”

Midway through the interview, Jones, who’s holding a topped-off latte precariously over her lap, trembles slightly. It’s enough to send a tsunami cascading onto her pants. “Oh my God, I’ve spilt coffee all over myself!” she cries. “This is so embarrassing!” But you get the sense that it really isn’t—Jones, for one, is smiling. When she returns with paper towels, we both point out how lucky she is to be wearing black pants; once patted down, the coffee vanishes into the fabric. “I’m a really polished, sophisticated actress, okay?”

I warn Jones before I bring up her long-term relationship with the sculptor and conceptual artist Ed Fornieles, with whom she shares an apartment in London. It’s part of my job, I explain by way of apology, and she nods in silent, if grim, determination. Has he seen Like Crazy, and what does he think of the film’s raw intimacy? “He has seen it, and he’s been very supportive of it,” she says. “He said that the film was great, and he’s an artist, so he understands it entirely. I mean, the things he does are far more insane than the things I do.” (Fornieles once appeared on the cover of Vogue Hommes with a tarantula swallowing his face.)

I ask her if she looks forward to working from a traditional script again. (Because of a commitment to a London production of Luise Miller, she turned down the chance to star as the title character in Tarsem Singh’s Snow White, a role that went to Lily Collins). “Yes,” she says, before offering: “But I think people express more through their faces than through their words. As soon as you put something into words, you suddenly become self-conscious and a level of falseness creeps in. I’m always trying to reduce the dialogue as much as possible, because that’s what’s fascinating about human beings—we never say what we think.”

Photography by Emily Shur. Styling by Jenny Ricker.

Xavier Samuel On ‘Twilight,’ ‘Anonymous,’ & Why Acting Is Like Sex

While in Berlin last year shooting Roland Emmerich’s Anonymous, Xavier Samuel decided to take advantage of a rare night away from set to hit the clubs with his younger brother, Benedict, who was visiting from the suburbs of Sydney. Samuel, who plays vampire Riley Biers in the galactically popular Twilight saga, wanted to cut loose, unnoticed, among the crowds. “We walked up to the door of one bar, and people started screaming at my brother: ‘Jamie! Jamie! Jamie!’” says the 27-year-old actor.

“So he started posing for pictures and signing autographs.” The throngs had mistaken Benedict for Jamie Campbell Bower, Samuel’s Anonymous costar, both of whom boast long, meticulously tangled heads of hair. “The next morning, there was a photo of Benedict and me in one of the papers over a caption that read, ‘Jamie Campbell Bower and friend in Berlin.’ And friend? Come on!” From the shrub-encased patio at Culina inside the Four Seasons Los Angeles, the Australian shakes his head and lets out a laugh.

It seems mistaken identity was in the air in Germany, where Samuel spent three months perfecting his British accent while channeling the Third Earl of Southampton, the man to whom, according to many Elizabethan scholars, Shakespeare addressed his sonnets. As the film’s tagline, “Was Shakespeare a fraud?,” suggests, Emmerich’s thriller centers on the popular theory that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, played by Rhys Ifans, ghostwrote many of the famed wordsmith’s plays. “It’s a bit elitist to argue that Shakespeare, a man from the working class, couldn’t have done it himself, but there are some strange coincidences that could make you lean toward de Vere as the writer,” says Samuel, who took the stage in productions of Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream during his studies at Rostrevor College and Flinders University Drama Centre in Adelaide. “There are so many theories,” he adds. “I’m sure that if you wanted to, you could find a reason to believe that Muhammad Ali wrote the plays. What’s more interesting to me is the tension between art and politics. Back then you put on a play to overthrow the government. Now you do a movie to get famous.”

A drama about authenticity and authorship set in Shakespearean England doesn’t exactly scream Emmerich, the German special effects enthusiast behind Independence Day, Godzilla, and 2012. But Samuel wasn’t worried about the director trying to arm Ben Jonson with an AK-47. “Sure, he’s a bit of a dark horse, but people seem to forget that the reason Independence Day worked so well was because we cared about those characters—even as everything around them was blowing up,” he says. “Explosions on their own don’t really matter if the audience doesn’t care about the story.” image

No franchise in recent history has catapulted a cast of unknown actors into superstardom with as much velocity as Twilight. In 2009, Samuel traveled to Vancouver to star alongside Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner in Eclipse, the second installment of the sunshine-averse saga. Although fans of the Cullen clan “never needed to be handcuffed or anything,” their advances were aggressive enough to force the cast out of their hotel and into a private residential compound. To enjoy their spare time, the actors had to get creative. “We’d have these strategic text conversations, like, ‘Okay, in 30 minutes let’s all meet at this place,’” Samuel says. “We even had lookalikes. When we’d all get to the meeting point, it was like, ‘Yes, we escaped!’”

Samuel, whose parents are teachers (“My dad used to say, ‘You can always go into law as a backup’”), has been acting professionally for almost a decade now, ever since appearing in an episode of the Australian series McLeod’s Daughters. Still, he talks about his recent films with the enthusiasm of a newcomer. He refers to his costars as “just-add-water families.” He describes Anonymous as a “totally awesome film—really, really awesome.” Working opposite Ifans was a near-ecstatic experience. “Acting is like sex,” he says. “It’s possible if your partner is bad, but it’s better if they’re good. And Rhys, well, he’s probably one of the most generous actors I’ve ever worked with.”

Minutes from now, Samuel will drive out to Venice Beach, where he’s learning to carve waves for Drift, a surf movie he’s soon to start filming alongside fellow Aussie Sam Worthington. “What’s next?,” however, is a question he’s come to loathe, even though he’s already got two more films—A Few Best Men (a wedding farce he likens to Bridesmaids) and Bait (a horror film about vicious tiger sharks and tsunamis)—in the can. As it turns out, this aversion to looking to the future stems from his recent past. “I was doing a play in Sydney, and David Field, a really respected Australian actor, came to the show. I made the fatal error of saying, What are you doing next? He was like, ‘I’m fucking changing nappies, you fucking cunt. What are you fucking doing?’” Samuel reclines in his chair and lights the cigarette he’s been rolling. After exhaling a thick cloud of blue smoke, he asks, “Why look ahead when you can stop and appreciate the moment?”

XAVIER LIKES Four Seasons

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Breaking Down Ashley Greene: 9 Things You Didn’t Know About the ‘Twilight’ Star

I wanted to write an article entitled “Go Ask Alice,” a play on that druggy confessional book from the seventies and the character that 24-year-old actor Ashley Greene is best known for portraying: Alice Cullen of the lusty vampire saga Twilight. I wanted to write about Hollywood DUIs with La Lohan, TMZ tussles, and coke-fueled orgies with the cast of Gossip Girl. I wanted to write the tragic untold story about the sorry life of the beautiful young starlet who got sucked into the vortex of a hyper-popular teen franchise—a $1.7 billion box office bonanza and counting. Being at the center of a storm like that must surely come with a dark side, right?

Apparently not.

In person, Greene comes across as anything but a Hollywood monster. She’s more like a Girl Next Door, maybe one of the Joey Potter variety—only real, and rich, and available for dissection in the pages of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. My hopes were dashed. Delivered from modeling classes in Florida to Hollywood at 17, and then to Twilight at 21, Greene appears to be well adjusted, deeply engaged in her career, and keenly aware of her good fortune. She’s close with her family, stays out of the tabloids (no small challenge given her relationship with onetime beau Joe Jonas), and seems every inch the PR fantasy.

The image Greene projects is one of a young woman so focused, private, and seemingly straight-laced as to be almost boring. (What good is a celebrity if there’s nothing salacious at which to wag our collective finger?) Except the Girl Next Door is never boring. Here’s why:

She’s a Bikini Babe Take a look at Sports Illustrated’s 2010 Swimsuit issue. That’s Ms. Greene inside, wearing nothing at all, her body a marvel in the ’90s-era supermodel mold. “My team asked them to go easy on the Photoshop,” she says. “I’m not perfect, I have flaws.” Perhaps they lie beneath the pink, scaly bikini that was painted onto her muscular form. “I painted it on myself,” she jokes. “Actually, it took 12 hours, and the artists are amazing. I was debating whether or not to do it, but I talked to my dad. I thought it was very beautiful and artistic.” She readily admits to harboring ulterior motives, though: “It had a really good response. I think it was actually a good thing in that it made my audience more broad.”

She Has a Dad Who Can Kill You How much heat did the old man take after his little girl turned up in her birthday suit on billboards and in magazines all over the world? “My dad used to be in the Marines, so no one is going to give him flack,” Greene says. She and her brother were raised with SEAL Team Six strictness in Middleburg and Jacksonville, Florida. (Her father now owns a concrete business, and her mother works in insurance.) “At 14, I was being a little brat. I thought I knew everything, and my dad was like, ‘I own your bed, your TV, everything.’ At the time I was annoyed, but I’m very thankful because he worked really hard to provide for us. There was a lot of discipline, and with what I’m doing now, I’m glad for it.

She Can Kick Your Ass at Sports It’s no coincidence that so many paparazzi shots show her exiting the gym. Her physique is so, well, exemplary that Greene has twice graced the cover of Women’s Health. “Growing up I was very competitive with my brother,” she says. “He did martial arts, and I was a tomboy. I got into martial arts and won medals.” Odds are good that one of them was a Purple Heart. “Once on the trampoline, I hit my leg and it just snapped,” the former cheerleader says. “They put pins in it.” Restrained in what nearly amounted to a full-body cast, Greene managed to re-break the bone soon thereafter when her brother, off balance on roller skates, sent her wheelchair careening into a concrete wall. “I broke my arm twice, I broke my femur twice, I split my head open twice,” Greene says. In other words, she is not afraid of you. image

She Has a Crazy Work Ethic Greene joined the labor force at age 14. “I worked at the dry cleaner across from my school, I worked accounts payable for a company, I did hosting, I worked at a bowling alley, I worked at a boutique,” she says, ticking through her resume. After arriving in LA with a manager and an agent in hand, she earned spots on Mad TV and Punk’d (she tricked Justin Long into thinking she was underage after he bought her a cocktail), but continued to work Average Joe jobs to make ends meet. “I worked at a hotel, I worked at a restaurant, I did modeling, I worked everywhere. And I didn’t get fired!” That hotel she worked at? The Hollywood Roosevelt in LA, home of Teddy’s, the site of many a debauched evening for young Hollywood. Does she care to share any stories? “Absolutely not.”

She Knows How to Be Naughty Yes, she’s discreet, but that doesn’t mean she can’t be seduced. Before there was Sports Illustrated, there was the cover of Maxim. “I wouldn’t have done anything too crazy,” she says. “The thing I tell myself is, My father’s going to see this.” She knows that teen girls make up the vast majority of her fan club, too. And yet, she understands what brings home the bacon. “It’s important to have a male audience.”

She’s Probably Seeing Someone Else It’s a wonder the aforementioned teens didn’t abandon her in droves in 2010 when she started dating Joe Jonas. (Whatever did happen to that promise ring?) Since their breakup last March, her love life has been the source of endless speculation—she’s been paired with everyone from onscreen afterlife-mate Jackson Rathbone to Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane. “I’m not an actress, I’m a professional dater,” she jokes. “I’m dating everyone! My brother lives in LA and won’t even walk outside a restaurant with me. He’s like, ‘I do not want to be romantically linked to you.’” But she’s quick to add: “I’m not dating anyone. I’m very focused on what I’m going to do next.”

She Will Always Be 17 in Your Mind Her future projects, other than Twilight: Breaking Dawn (parts I and II), include Butter, a dark comedy about butter-carving, a colloquial art form popular at state fairs (she plays Jennifer Garner’s stepdaughter), and LOL, a teen flick with Miley Cyrus. There’s also an Oliver Twist-like project, wherein Dickens’ famous tale of orphandom gets re-imagined for a female lead. Truth be told, Greene is entering a tricky age in Hollywood: too old to play the daughter, not old enough to play the wife. Not many actors negotiate the transition gracefully. “I think Rachel McAdams has done a great job,” Greene says. “Going from Mean Girls to Midnight in Paris. She’s had really diverse roles and separates herself.”

She Has a Clue Greene knows that people see her as Alice from Twilight. But she also realizes how limiting that can be. “Everyone sees Alice as a best friend. A teen idol is an untouchable, unapproachable, amazing thing. The cool thing about Alice is that anyone that comes up to me is like, ‘I just want to hug you.’” Is that not also, well, a little creepy? “No, they’re not asking for a lock of my hair. They just relate to that character and relate to me, but I don’t consider myself a teen idol. Justin Bieber is a teen idol.”

She’s Down to Earth Bieber and the Jonas brothers and dozens of other stadium-filling teen idols can’t go five minutes without name-checking God for their success. To what does Greene attribute her good fortune? “The first year I was in LA, I worked my butt off. I was in acting classes every day. I would rather pay money for a class than have nice clothes. If I hadn’t worked as hard as I did, I wouldn’t be with the manager and the agent I have and they wouldn’t have sent me out for this Twilight thing. There are roles I didn’t get and I was really devastated, but because I didn’t get them, I was able to do Twilight … If you end up unsuccessful, on the street with no friends, it’s probably because you’re a jerk. It’s not necessarily divine intervention. Your actions predict what happens.”

But just like any good Girl Next Door, Greene counters all that talk about forging her own destiny with some good-old fashioned humility: “You can’t control if the casting director thinks you look like his ex-girlfriend.”

ASHLEY LIKES Madeo.