The Best of the South By Southwest Bit Torrents, 2013

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It seems like everybody crashed the music conference at South by Southwest this year. Iggy Pop played The Mohawk. Prince played La Zona Rosa. 50 Cent and George Clinton partied at The North Door. Justin Timberlake premiered his new album at The Coppertank. A whole host of other top-notch acts that will be headlining festivals over the next few years—from Fitz & The Tantrums to Kendrick Lamar to Alt-J—promoted their newest work on every stage possible.

And then there were all the other bands that we know little to nothing about. More than 1,500 of them, to be exact. Sure, a few may rise to the top a few months or years from now, but the point of South by Southwest—or perhaps what used to be the point—was to hear, promote and support these burgeoning new artists first, before they blew up or extinguished their dreams of becoming professional musicians.

One of the last remaining ways to really dig into the pulse of all the newest artists playing at SxSW is through the annual release of the bit torrents, which has a single track from most of the showcasing artists playing at least one set at the conference. Last year, I made a list for the best of each of the torrents as they were released: part one, which had fifty tracks, and part two, which had thirty-five, totaling a mere 85 out of the nearly 1,600 that were released in total. If you glance at the list from 2012, you will not only find songs you now recognize from your own iTunes library or the radio, but also an eclectic mix of sound from most musical genres present at SXSW.

I tried to replicate that again this year. To be even more thorough, I had some help from friend and music aficionado Aaron Albrecht, aka Active Listener, who has managed a respectable underground podcast covering South by Southwest and a wide variety of musical genres for the past few years now. We attacked the exhaustive task of listening to all this year’s 1,200+ bit torrents in this fashion: listen to each song once, for at least a minute. Pull your favorites, none of which could have made my list last year or are well-established artists (sorry Zion I, we still love you though). Then do the same thing with your favorites until you have narrowed the list down to around 60 or 70 tracks. Then we compare our lists, include the tracks that match and campaign for our other favorites through repeat plays, extended BBQ meals, shots of bourbon, and bouts of yelling.

The 20 best that we ultimately agreed upon have made the Active Listener / BlackBook podcast that can be streamed or downloaded here, so you can hear them for yourself, immediately—along with some commentary from us as we climbed out of the SXSW bit torrent trenches. These top 20 tracks from the podcast are also listed on the subsequent pages in no particular order, along with another 43 tracks listed alphabetically by artist who didn’t make the podcast, but that were my personal favorites from the bit torrents for 2013. Enjoy the music!

Podcast Listing:

  1. “Try My Love” – Roxy Roca
  2. “Firecracker” – Michael Bernard Fitzgerald
  3. “Runnin’” – Sinkane
  4. “Sunsick” – Fort Lean
  5. “La Marcha” – Campo
  6. “What UP?” – Hector Guerra
  7. “Rhyme O’Clock” – Wordburglar
  8. “No Rest” – DJ Buddha
  9. “Turn Up” – Gent & Jawns
  10.  “My Activator” – 100’s
  11.  “Shake, Shake, Shake” – Bronze Radio Return
  12.  “Did We Ever Really Try?” – Delorentos
  13.  “State Hospital” – Frightened Rabbit
  14.  “Full Circle” – Half Moon Run
  15.  “Wet Summer” – Bondax
  16.  “Sleepless” featuring Jezzabell Doran – Flume
  17.  “Vehl” – Kidnap Kid
  18.  “Holy Moly” – Dame
  19.  “Change” – Churchill
  20.  “Love & War” – Wolfgang Gartner

 

The Other 43 Blackbook Bit Torrent Tracks, Alphabetically Listed

  1. “Steam Dream” – Andy Clockwise
  2. “Oh Honey” – The Audreys
  3. “Slipping Away” – Barcelona
  4. “Touch” – Battleme
  5. “Guttersnipe” – Bhi Bhiman
  6. “Up!” – The Black and White Years
  7. “Unbroken, Unshaven” – Budos Band
  8. “Doses and Mimosas” – Cherub
  9. “Pillars and Pyre” – Christopher Smith
  10.  “Coal” – Curly Castro
  11.  “Lake Charles” – Dana Falconberry
  12.  “By Surprise” – Gemini Sound
  13.  “Dark Again” – Gold Fields
  14.  “Sunrise” – Grandchildren
  15.  “I Can Rejoice” – Greater Voices of Calvary with Warrior Gospel Band
  16.  “Bright Stars” – Hey Marseilles
  17.  “Won’t F Us Over” – The Hood Internet
  18.  “Peaches” – In the Valley Below
  19.  “Don’t Matter to Me” – Kail Baxley
  20.  “L’Amour” – Karim Ouellet
  21.  “Two Times” – Kid Karate
  22.  “Switzerland” – The Last Bison
  23.  “Sarah” – Le Matos
  24.  “Yes He IS G-Mix” – League of Extraordinary G’s
  25.  “Aujourd’hui, ma vie c’est d’la marde” – Lisa LeBlanc
  26.  “When I’m Alone” – Lissie
  27.  “Overdose” – Little Daylight
  28.  “Buried In the Murder” – The Lonely Wild
  29.  “Ghosts” – On and On
  30.  “Inside My Head” – Parkington Sisters
  31.  “Till We Ghosts” – Petite Noir
  32.  “Bassline” – Reverend and the Makers
  33.  “Blue” – Royal Thunder
  34.  “Trouble With Boxes” – Sarah Hickman
  35.  “Beauty” – The Shivers
  36.  “Dick & Jane” – Sidney York
  37.  “Terracur” – Social Studies
  38.  “Ya Never Know” – Terraplane Sun
  39.  “Remembrance Day” – Tory Lanez
  40.  “The Golden Age & The Silver Girl” – Tyler Lyle
  41.  “Gold” – Wake Owl
  42.  “Television” – You Won’t
  43.  “Knot In My Heart” – The Zolas

The Most Exciting Films From This Year’s South By Southwest

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This year the film portion of the South by Southwest Conference had thirteen entrees that premiered at Sundance and a number of studio-funded projects destined for wide release, meant primarily to bolster the star power attending the daily and nightly Paramount theater premieres. This is not a bad thing—rather, it’s a testament to how vital the SXSW Film Conference has become to the film scene in general, a diverse conflagration of anything and everything within the strata of a theatrical experience. However, it doesn’t make breaking new, below-the-radar films any easier, especially with a bigger schedule—the much-anticipated premiere of the The East comes on the final night of the conference, after this will be published—and more theaters scattered around town.

That’s where I focused most of my efforts on the film front, catching more than 20 films—in honor of the film conference’s 20th anniversary—most of them produced on very low budgets or premiering for the first time in the United States. I skipped Burt Wonderstone and the Evil Dead reboot, as they’re flicks I’ll see in my local megaplex depending on the Rotten Tomatoes reception. I skipped Before Midnight in favor of a local Austinite’s film, quite regretfully—I’d rather pay to see the final installment of Linklater’s walk-and-talk romance trilogy, anyway. The six films listed here are the ones I found to be the most impressive and important glimpses into the cultural zeitgeist at the 2013 film conference—though there are a number I didn’t get a chance to see due to scheduling conflicts and the fact that the press screening library crammed into the convention center stairwell was so atrociously barren. But with so much paranoia surrounding pirating these days, who’s going to risk turning in a DVD to the media?

Spring Breakers

Unlike anything you’ve ever seen, the charged 1,300 plus audience at the Paramount was—as a Deadline reporter put it—both “joyful and bewildered” when the lights went up after the North American premiere. While some critics may find the surface layers of the film to be a mile wide and an inch deep, or an extended Skrillex music video, this is merely the backdrop Korine wanted to create. The slow-motion montage of barely clothed coeds binge drinking on a Florida Beach in the opening minutes of the film is the ultimate thesis statement—the youthful, primal obsession with self-destruction, beautiful imagery, carefree sexuality and complete sensory overload is all about to come into sharp focus.

With a dreamlike storyline, seedy neon-soaked cinematography, and non-linear editing reminiscent of a Terrence Malick film, Spring Breakers preys on the audience’s senses. You kind of can’t look away, whether you’re enjoying yourself or not. And—without giving up the ending—one could even argue that Korine’s work is a bizarrely magnificent statement about feminism, where the pretty, aggressive blondes in this vapid fantasy world of a St. Petersburg Spring Break are the ones who are the true gangsters.  Regardless of if you agree with any of this analysis, you should see Spring Breakers for James Franco alone, as the corn-rowed, grill-sporting thug who goes by the moniker of Alien—it’s truly a performance for the ages.

Yellow

Heather Wahlquist has appeared in relatively minor supporting roles in her husband Nick Cassavetes’s films over the past decade, which makes her leading performance in Yellow all the more impressive. In it, she plays one of those artificially gorgeous yet vividly delusional California women named Mary Holmes, who is barely holding it together. She teaches elementary school children and chases pills with vodka nips throughout the day, regularly drifting into her own alternate realities, which are equally colorful, musical, hilarious, and horrifying. As her antics get worse, she is forced to return home to her family, where Wahlquist takes us inside the core of her character, revealing the origins of her mania. The entire film, which Wahlquist also co-wrote, is a quiet yet remarkable achievement.

Good Ol’ Freda

The Beatles have been covered from just about every angle possible by now—except the one director Ryan White found for Good Ol’ Freda, when he interviewed Freda Kelly, the head of the band’s fan club for much of the ’60s and perhaps the only Beatles employee who had never broken her silence about the band. It’s a sweet film and a fascinating look at an incredibly respectful and moral person who was tasked with protecting and representing some of the most famous people in the world. White’s storytelling does reveal a few new insights into who the Beatles were behind the scenes, but the film focuses primarily on Freda, examining how someone so close to those who were literally changing the world could remain so true to who they really are as a person.

Scenic Route

Bleak tales about the insignificance of man and the brutality of the world are tough to pull off without fine acting and crackling dialogue, which is why Scenic Route works so well. Two friends, played by the diametrical opposed Josh Duhamel and Dan Fogler, are stranded off the incredibly photogenic highway through Death Valley and forced to reexamine their friendship after drifting apart. The situation quickly goes from bad to worse, however, due in part to both men’s egos and stupidity, as well as a bit of bad luck—which, when you get all philosophical about it, is something that life often serves most of us in the end.

Drinking Buddies

There’s a incredibly unique tone to Drinking Buddies, thanks in part to director Joe Swanberg’s technique of having his actors tightly improv every scene in the film. It’s also probably because his core cast consists of seasoned professionals like Anna Kendrick, Jake Johnson, Ron Livingston, and—most impressively—Olivia Wilde, who really shows off her dynamic acting chops while also looking crazy hot. The result is a romantic dramedy—if that’s even a thing—that qualifies as one of the more realistic unrequited love stories that has worked in a while.

Cheap Thrills

The first film purchased at South by Southwest this year—by none other then Drafthouse Films, who held the world premiere in one of their theaters—this fine dark comedy is ultimately a real-world fable about what desperate men will do for money. Made on a shoestring budget with a quality cast (Pat Healey, Sara Paxton, David Koechner, and, by far the most impressive transformation, Ethan Embry as a tough guy) Cheap Thrills is a testament to true independents of the past that deserve to break through to a wider audience. It manages to break new ground and entertain, while keeping its message hidden until the very last frame.   

Tumblr, Vimeo Founders Talk Creativity At SXSW Brunch

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Want to brunch with Tumblr founder David Karp? Split an omelette with Vimeo founder Jake Lodwick? Have an espresso with the lead singer of OK Go? Yep, so do I. And maybe someday we will, but for now, we’re getting the next best thing: a video from GE’s two-hour Brilliant Brunch at SXSW, when eight leading creators of all things tech, media, & music came together to dine on waffles, sip Bloody Marys, and tackle how they got started, what challenges them, and how they stay on top.

In this video, the innovators discuss their “Path to Creativity.” Check out the full list of videos, sit back, grab a coffee, and get instantly inspired. Or at least hungry.

Follow Bonnie on Twitter here.

Popular Comedy People Launch New Internet Thing at SXSW

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According to Wikipedia, "Jash" is a Kurdish word referring to enemy collaborators who fight against the interests of country, used in a similar (and pejorative) manner as "quisling" or "Benedict Arnold." According to the Internet, Jash is also the name of a new comedy channel launched over the weekend at South By Southwest, put on by YouTube and starring Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim, Sarah Silverman, Michael Cera, and Reggie Watts. The goal of the project is to create "a comedy platform with complete creative autonomy," although the description of the SXSW launch event sounds way more, well, SXSW-y, complete with buzzy phrases like "collaborative innovation in the digital space" and "the thriving world of digital media in entertainment." Woof.

And, because this is SXSW and people have to tweet about literally everything that happens there, portmanteaus, puns and taglines people have come up with on Twitter about this thing already include "Jashhead, Flash your Jash, Jashtag, Jashed Potatoes, splishsplash I was taking a Jash, Jashercized." We’ll see where it all goes from here. In the meantime, watch the first ever Jash video below. In it, there are scenes of popular YouTube videos being destroyed, which may be wishful thinking for everyone who has grown weary of Harlem Shakes and screaming goats. 

 

I’m Not Going To SXSW, So Stop Asking

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Hey, man: self-promotion is tough. And if you’re the PR point person for a few different bands, that’s even tougher. Toughest of all might be trying to generate PR buzz for all eight of the bands you represent, all of which are performing twice at SXSW next week. Unfortunately, I can’t help. You see, I’m not going to SXSW. Not to see films, or hear music, or gawk at new technology. None of it.

“But,” you will interject, “aren’t you a pop culture writer? And isn’t SXSW, for the briefest of moments, going to be the undisputed epicenter of American pop culture?” Yes, exactly: who could stand to be in such a place? And I’ve seen Slacker enough times (once) to want to avoid Austin, Texas, for completely separate reasons.

I’m really sorry, though: I know a lot of you strangers had your hearts set on “meeting up” or “getting together” or “checking in,” mostly because you keep emailing me about it. I’m not entirely sure what we would do once we made contact—stand on line outside a crowded bar and wait to get arrested for blocking a fire lane, I’d guess—but it’s just not in the cards. Maybe next year. 

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter.

Burning Man Documentary Sort of Like Burning Man Without the Dehydration

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In most cases, people who regularly talk about Burning Man generally fall into four camps: people who have attended Burning Man and are obsessed with the transformative experience of the thing, people who went to Burning Man and hated it but still want to remind everyone that they went to Burning Man, dreamy-eyed college students who reeeeeaaallllyyyy want to go to Burning Man but, like, just need people to go with, and people who have never been to Burning Man but write eye-rolling blogs about it. But, whether due to the inherent weirdness of much of the experience, the intense visuals or the chance to exploit people on drugs, people also really love making documentaries about Burning Man. And you, too, can see the latest salute to the neon-and-nudity fantasyland at South By Southwest when Steve Brown and Jessie Deeter (Who Killed the Electric Car?) premiere Spark: A Burning Man Story, a behind-the-scenes look at the festival, focusing on organizers and repeat participants, and how their ideals and festival perceptions have shifted over time. One woman describes how the festival compelled her to learn how to weld; a gentleman with a beard extols Black Rock Desert as "a great venue to build giant stuff and blow it up."

This is hardly the first documentary that has gone behind the scenes or given outsiders a look at the gonzo civilization of Black Rock—Damon Brown released Burning Man: Beyond Black Rock in 2005 and followed the organizers, artists and participants for 18 months, from first-drawn plans to the final ember. But Spark, at least from first glance, not only has time and the dramatic increase in magnitude of the festival over time to contend with, but seems more about the physical, emotional and artistic toll putting this strange cultural camp together can have on a person. It’s a complicated piece, indeed, but looks intriguing, even if the thought of Burning Man makes you roll your eyes and also vomit. Spark premieres at SxSW on Sunday, March 10th, and you can check out a trailer below. 

[via LaughingSquid]

Ten Great Austin Bars to Hit During South by Southwest

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It’s time once again for that annual festival of everything creative and cool, South by Southwest. Austin will soon be packed with hipsters and those who love them as they groove to funky tunes, watch cutting-edge films, play with the hottest new gadgets, and get marketed to by a zillion companies that crave their young, sexy, opinion-leading dollars. Need a break? Drop by one of our favorite Austin bars, where the escape you seek can be found at the bottom of a whiskey glass. Continue to our list of 10 Essential Austin Bars and start drinking (responsibly). 

[Related: BlackBook Austin Guide; BlackBook Top Lists]

Richard Linklater Makes Another Movie About Creepy Texans

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The finest Richard Linklater films—Before Sunrise and Sunset, Dazed and Confused, Waking Life—have all been unique, philosophical, and relatively uplifting in their outlook on the world, with few casualties beyond a broken heart or paddled ass. He didn’t seem to be a director who did dark—whether it was due to his own personal tastes or lack of range was a topic of film geek chat room debate. That’s why his newest film Bernie seems, on the surface, like such a departure from the happy-go-lucky Bad News Bears studio fare many nostalgic indie film fans feared Linklater may have settled into.

Based on a Texas Monthly article about the bizarre murder of Marjorie Nugent in the small town of Carthage, Texas in the late ‘90s, Bernie is a spatter of true crime Americana fully loaded with quirky circumstances and characters—a pitch perfect tale for Linklater’s subdued directorial and storytelling talents. He was hooked as soon as he read Skip Hollandsworth’s piece in the state’s official magazine, prompting him to head back to his boyhood stomping grounds of East Texas to actually watch the trial in person—a fine refuge back in 1999, shortly after The Newton Boys flopped. And now, more then a decade later, the trip has paid off, with a top tier cast of Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey leading the way.

The end result is one of the most well-rounded and fascinating films of the Austin-based director’s career, proving he can go dark in his own refreshingly humorous way. Linklater and I chatted about Bernie in the middle of the madness of South by Southwest just minutes before he headed down to the Paramount Theater to premiere the dark comedy to a packed house of a thousand eager moviegoers. 

Do you get nervous before these types of premieres anymore?
No. Not about the film doing well. It’s more about petty things—like public speaking. I’m not a huge fan of that.

While truth is often stranger then fiction when it comes to true crime stories. How much of Bernie is embellished?
Most of this stuff really happened, as it’s adapted almost directly from the Texas Monthly article and then what I witnessed at the actual trial. People have said they don’t believe certain things, like the jurors in the courtroom drinking big gulps while they watched the proceedings in court. I was there; I saw it with my own eyes. It’s at the judge’s discretion, evidently. It’s pretty real, this whole thing. Having grown up in East Texas, in Huntsville, I felt I had a story to tell about this world. 

Was there always a humorous undertone?
It was always humorous. I don’t even see this film as a dark comedy—I see it as a comedy with one really dark act that informs the rest of the story around it. I actually went and visited Bernie in prison and he’s not a dark guy. He’s not a psychopath. He wouldn’t do this again. To me, the bigger issue that we all have to ask ourselves is could the nicest person in the world be capable of the most heinous act? Most people I ask that question to are in the film industry, so all of them respond that they could kill someone, of course.

Film people are not exactly the nicest people in the world.
That’s for sure. But beyond that, I think most people go through their lives and never question it, they don’t consider it to be part of their own set of behaviors. But if you really think about it, could you be driven crazy enough to kill someone?

Is this the first murder in any of your films?
It is, technically. I have had some jokey things that were arguably not real, but this was my first killing. I asked Jack [Black] actuallybefore we shot if he had every murdered anyone in a movie before. He hadn’t, so it was both of our first, real cinematic murders. I didn’t take that sort of thing lightly—I wanted to show the real-life ramifications of it. The after effects of something like that are still being felt in the town.

Especially now, with the film coming out. What was Bernie like when you visited him in prison?
He was a really nice guy, actually. It confirmed the angle of the film and what I thought about him from what I’d read.

There’s no manipulation? He didn’t come across as a sociopath?
Not with Bernie. If he’s manipulative, it’s not for a place of his own gain. In a way, we all manipulate each other 24 hours a day, but it really comes down to what ends. The sociopath manipulates to strictly for their own gain with no feeling for who they are manipulating. Bernie just wants to be liked, which is his fatal flaw. He just couldn’t tell anyone to piss off—which ends up pushing him to his breaking point.

Why couldn’t he just leave Marjorie Nugent and go on with his life?
That’s the most fascinating part about it to me and it wasn’t until Jack [Black] and I talked to Bernie in person that I figured it out, about six months before we shot the film. Bernie couldn’t just leave Ms. Nugent, because he felt that he was her only friend and she couldn’t live without him. He was stuck with her, for better or worse. It’s strange—it’s like an abused wife who shoots her husband in the head while he is sleeping. People ask her after the fact, “Why couldn’t you just leave?” And her response is, “I loved him too much.”

Fiona Apple Single Will Tide You Over For Seven More Weeks

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Fiona Apple has returned to the public eye with her unparalleled voice, ethereal and wild as it ever was, and insanely long album titles, in this case—deep breath here, folks—The Idler Wheel is wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords will serve you more than Ropes will ever do. Apple’s first step back into our conscious was what seemed to be a one-woman takeover of Twitter when she took the stage at the South By Southwest music clusterfuck back in March. Music writers and the kind of people who spend their vacation surrounded by them were reporting that Apple, who hadn’t released an album since 2005’s Extraordinary Machine, was burning up stages with a pair of shows in Austin.

And while we watched the YouTube Videos and did our best to listen, none of that can come quite close to what we get today: a studio version of the new album’s first single, “Every Single Night.” It’s a tricky song, starting out unassuming and sweet, and turning into a frenzied burner that gloriously showcases Apple’s trademark talking-singing-belting combo.

The album won’t be out until June, but in the meanwhile you can obsessively listen to “Every Single Night” right here—you’ve waited seven years, anyway, what’s another few weeks?