Five Out Of Five Bobby Jindals for ‘Dosa Hunt’

“This never could have happened ten years ago,” Amrit Singh, the affable Stereogum blogger and director of the short documentary Dosa Hunt, explained to an audience Monday at Nitehawk Cinema in Williamsburg. “If you had told fifteen-year-old me that one day there would be guys in these great bands that looked like me, I never would have forgiven myself for not making this project.” The guys that look like him—Ashok “Dapwell” Kondabolu and Hima Suri of Das Racist, Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend, Yeasayer’s Anand Wilder (“the pretty one”), jazz pianist Vijay Iyer, and Alan Palomo of Neon Indian—filled a Dodge Sprinter for the one-day food excursion that had less to do with dosas and more to do with the sort of existential humor of being a first-generation American artist.           

Even with a cuisine as eclectic as dosa—an Indian crepe-like pancake stuffed with potatoes and chilis, served with chutney sauce—I still think of Lewis Lapham’s word on this stuff: “The pleasures of the table [are] those to be found in the company and the conversation rather than in whatever [is] the sun-dried specialty on the plate.” For however gastronomically educational the movie is, the interesting parts all center around the opinions and attitudes slung about in the van. Slumdog Millionaire sucked (“I’m biologically opposed to it,” quipped Kondabolu). The dosa rating system relies on “an alternate universe” wherein Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal doesn’t support bigoted, reactionary policies. Bollywood is embraced as camp. On every socio-political topic, the confident, progressive verdict is followed with a shrug of measured apathy. Bobby Jindal is just a guy. Slumdog is just a movie.

Singh contends, justifiably so, that “the film wasn’t just a vanity project,” but there’s certainly the mark of a fanboy filmmaker not yet jaded by the Merchants of Cool-hood of pop music. The scoring is fantastic—you could watch Yeasayer-laced footage of the Queensboro Bridge all day long. And the music itself, from the tribal beats of “Madder Red” to the Afro-pop tinge of V.W.’s “Giving Up The Gun”, is rife with the political multiculturalism/we-like-what-we-like kind of sentiment that informs most of today’s best popular art. Heritage and ethnicity are points of pride, but you can also say, write, wear, or play whatever you want.

In perhaps the best scene of the movie, Heems of Das Racist (“Well who’s that, brown, downtown like Julie / mixed-race British chicks let me in they coochie”) walks through the aisles of an Indian grocery store in Jackson Heights, knowingly name-checking Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Bisquick (ironic dosa ingredients) with his mug in the camera a la MTV’s Cribs. You sense that the emotional palate these guys have grown up with is part racial consciousness, part where-were-you-when-Kurt-Cobain-died (John Norris, a friend and mentor of Singh’s, moderated the post-screening Q&A). After the final meal, Heems hops in the van and wonders with cheek if the “dosa is a metaphor for the American dream.” Why not?

Follow James Ramsay on Twitter.

BlackBook Tracks #6: Is Your Summer Weird Yet?

It’s mid-July, and by now your summer’s probably getting really good or really weird. (My vote’s for weird, I don’t know about you.) Whatever’s going on, round out your soundtrack with this week’s musical picks.

JEFF the Brotherhood – “Six Pack”

Get to know another side of Nashville with JEFF the Brotherhood. The lead single from their new Dan Auerbach-produced album Hypnotic Nights shows how to stay optimistic about summer, even when it is too hot to live, also known as right now.

The Soft Pack – “Saratoga”

San Diego garage rockers the Soft Pack are getting ready to release their next album Strapped on Mexican Summer. First single “Saratoga” hints at the vibes to come.

Vampire Weekend – “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”

Remember when you first heard Vampire Weekend? Brooklyn’s finest have been keeping quiet while working on their third album, but they resurfaced at the Pitchfork Music Festival last weekend to remind everyone of just how great they are.

The Bewitched Hands – “Thank You, Goodbye, It’s Over”

The charming French indie pop band jangles its way through two and a half minutes of pure pleasantness.

Alt-J – “Tessellate”

See things in a slightly different way with these fast-rising Brits.

Lana Del Rey – “National Anthem” (Das Racist remix)

Nothing like a good remix to make Lana Del Rey more palatable, and Das Racist don’t disappoint.

MNDR – “Faster Horses”

MNDR knows her way around a slick electro-pop tune, and “Faster Horses” is no exception. Keep an eye out for her debut LP Feed Me Diamonds next month.

Discovery – “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” (ft. Deradoorian)

The blend of efficiency and pop production on Discovery’s LP make it a summer record with lasting power.

Bear In Heaven – “World Of Freakout”

Bear In Heaven bring the fuzzy, washed-out synths for a song that’s more complex than it initially lets on.

Poolside – “Just Fall In Love”

A record called Pacific Standard Time is irresistable by default, and the California duo Poolside have the disco-inflected chops to back it up.

Kindness – “Anyone Can Fall In Love”

A slow jam for summer nights, British up-and-comer Kindness has a knack for universal pop appeal.

Moonlight Matters – “Come For Me” (ft. Gustaph)

Getting people to dance to songs they’ve never heard before can be a challenge, but this track, assisted by Hercules and Love Affair’s Gustaph, is probably a good place to start.

BlackBook Tracks #4: There Are No More Original 4th of July Puns

Yesterday was the Fourth of July, sure, but why not carry on the party through the rest of the week? Let’s hear it for a five-day weekend, everyone! With that in mind, here’s a loosely patriotic playlist to pair with your upcoming weekend’s woeful lack of a fireworks display.

Primal Scream – “Country Girl”

Sure, Primal Scream are Scottish, but their take on Americana still sounds pretty good.

The Hold Steady – “Atlantic City” (Bruce Springsteen cover)

The Brooklyn band looks to Jersey in this spirited take on the Boss.

The Black Keys – “Dearest” (Buddy Holly cover)

Dan Auerbach may not sound as charming as Buddy Holly, but the Black Keys’ offering was a highlight of last year’s Rave On covers collection.

The Apache Relay – “State Trooper” (Bruce Springsteen cover)

This Springsteen cover from rising Nashvillians the Apache Relay starts off minimalist and slowly builds, showcasing Michael Ford, Jr.’s earnest vocals.

Yelawolf – “Made In The USA” (ft. Priscilla Renea)

According to my sources, Yelawolf is popular abroad because the Alabama rapper is seen as being really good at representing America. Exhibit A.

These United States – “Let The River In”

The band name alone says it all, but this cut from These United States’ self-titled new album will hold up well while you’re throwing some burgers on the grill tomorrow.

Vampire Weekend – “I’m Going Down” (Bruce Springsteen cover)

Vampire Weekend delivered this mellow rendition of the Springsteen classic on their 2010 live EP.

LCD Soundsystem – “North American Scum”

For those of us who have complicated relationships with being American.

Kid Cudi, Best Coast, and Rostam Batmanglij – “All Summer”

While this isn’t an ode to California, it’s a little more inclusive and will sound great while you’re swimming/barbecuing/bald eagle-watching.

HEALTH – “USA Boys”

It’s called “USA Boys,” so it must be them

Daniel Radcliffe In Slow Club’s “Beginners” and Other Celebrities in Music Videos

After Shia LaBoeuf bared all for Sigur Ros yesterday, Daniel Radcliffe is the latest movie star to feature in a music video. In the clip for folk-pop duo Slow Club’s typically gorgeous track “Beginners,” Radcliffe has a dramatic breakdown in a pub, all filmed in one take. (If the teeth-gnashing and fist-shaking weren’t clear enough, it’s obvious that his character is in a bad place from his Hawaiian shirt.) Watch “Beginners” below, and check out some other music videos with celebrity guests.

Slow Club – “Beginners”

 

The Shoes – “Time To Dance”
Jake Gyllenhaal channels Patrick Bateman as he goes on a killing spree soundtracked by the French dance-pop duo the Shoes.

The Apples In Stereo – “Dance Floor”
This isn’t another Daniel Radcliffe clip; it’s Elijah Wood being transported through time and space to meet indie-pop stalwarts the Apples in Stereo.

Brandon Flowers – “Crossfire”
Killers frontman Brandon Flowers never did anything on a small scale, so it made sense to have Charlize Theron play a warrior on a mission in this video for one of his solo songs. Her?

Father John Misty – “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”
Aubrey Plaza gets angry, bites/throws things, and goes through some sort of party/nightmare hybrid.

Vampire Weekend – “Giving Up The Gun”
This earlier foray sees Jake Gyllenhaal brandishing a tennis racket in one hand and a handle of whiskey in the other. The video also features cameos from RZA, Lil Jon, and Joe Jonas.

Brit Marling on Co-Writing and Starring in ‘Sound of My Voice’

In the last year, Brit Marling has emerged on our screens with films that are not only brilliant in their own right, but they are ushering in a new wave of American independent cinema. The actress and writer first blew us away with the hauntingly beautiful science-fiction drama Another Earth, which she starred in and co-wrote with Mike Cahill, winning the Special Jury Prize at Sundance. In her latest feature, Sound of My Voice (co-written with director Zal Batmanglij), she plays Maggie, a frighteningly seductive cult leader who claims to be from the future. The film follows a young couple who attempt to infiltrate the cult in order to expose Maggie, but they soon find themselves caught in the depths of her manipulation.

“Everything’s starting to come together in this way and the distinctions are starting to blur—you don’t have to box yourself in as just an actor or a writer,” Marling says, as she has taken on the multi-hyphenate title with grace. In a screening of the film held last week, Marling and Batmanglij spoke about the transformative nature of the film and the way in which its entire genre can alter depending on your faith in Maggie. Stripped down to its most basic emotional elements, Sound of My Voice can be seen as your everyday love triangle—except in this case one of the people involved may or may not be a time traveler. It’s not only Marling’s riveting onscreen performances that have been engaging audiences, but the sincere intelligence of her films and the way she puts forth dynamic characters for women that feel refreshing in today’s Hollywood landscape. We sat down with Marling to dive deeper into the inception of the film, the magic in the mundane, and dealing with the apocalyptic future.

You’ve had a pretty crazy past year. How has that been for you?
What’s been cool is that for a while Mike, Zal, and I were all in this vacuum together having this experience, feeling a lot about our generation, and making sense of our experience. We were sort of alone in that. And then we made these little movies not expecting anything out of them—like at most we would show with our friends in our living room. The idea that they have entered the world and are things that you’re thinking about is wonderful.

When I hear about the way in which you went about making both Another Earth and Sound of My Voice, it reminds me of a better time in film history when people seemed to have more passion and went after the things they loved.
I feel like it’s so cool that we’re living in a time when the technology has reached a place and you really can just pick up a camera and start making films yourself. Think about what filmmaking must have been like when things were so specialized. You had to learn all these different disciplines and you couldn’t touch the technology and everything was separated. You really feel like young people are making stuff and it gives a voice to our generation in a way that’s very cool.

Your films tell these basic human stories in a very mystical world—it’s a very Kieslowski thing.
Yes! Like that moment in Blue when she’s dragging her knuckles across that stone wall or in Red when the bubble gum ad becomes like the metaphysical portal into how she nearly dies and meets the love of her life. A fucking bubble gum ad! I love that pairing. I think our generation has that desire. You see it in music now, too; there’s a kind of earnestness and deep desire for something romantic and honest, but also the possibility for something magical in the mundane. We’re all hoping there’s more to all of this that meets the eye, and I hope that’s true.

Both of your films are all about questions and experience rather than a final destination. They end on the spot where most films would start, with these giant moments.
I think cinema can get at the ineffable and the metaphysical in a way that’s very special. If a play is 80 percent auditory and 20 percent visual, cinema is the reverse. There are moments in film that can get to a place beyond words. Literally things that cannot be described by language—language is too limited. I think that we’re always interested in those kind of endings, trying to arrive at a place after 90 minutes of storytelling just for one breathless moment where the film is articulating something that you’ve always wanted to say but there haven’t been words for. This film is just taking you on this journey to arrive at this one truth that is unutterable.

Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij did the music for the film. Did you work together?
Zal did all the work with Rostam, but Rostam has been scoring Zal’s movies from the very beginning. It’s amazing because… We were just talking about the ineffable, and Rostam as a composer can put his finger on the pulse of the ineffable. I don’t know how he does it, but it’s in all of his work. I think we were beyond lucky that someone with his extreme ability is willing to write music for these little movies.

What’s interesting about cults is the desperation of the members who need to cling onto something so badly. Is that a theme you’ve always been interested in?
I think that Los Angeles heavily influenced this story. I think if we were living somewhere else this would not have come out. There are a lot of themes and feelings that are generational, like the search for meaning, trying to make sense of where the world is right now. All these movies that are dealing with apocalyptic futures and that we’re on an unsustainable track and where’s it going to go, this sense that the crack up is about to happen of the civilized world as we know it and that our generation seems a bit eager for it to happen.

It’s like if we anticipate it enough and plan it out and show it through art and film, then it will be easier to handle when it comes.
And will someone show us the way out? Will we have to learn to grow food? None of the things that our parents taught us will matter. Will doing your taxes or your degree matter when you can’t tell the different types of plants that are poisonous from the ones that are not? And the idea of the cult thing is like… Manifest Destiny is what L.A. seems to represent, like people going to West Coast in search of reinventing themselves. That is a place filled with so much desire and dreams, and then so much disappointment.

But it’s so dark. That’s what I always loved about film noir and that time period: everyone goes there to be a star and to make it, and then they end up jumping off the Hollywood sign.
Just corn husks washing out into the Pacific: that’s the image I always have. I think that that is totally in the film. It worked its way in there.

When you’re writing, do you keep in mind as an actress what you would want to play?
I try to write the thing that really scares me, the thing that I might not be able to do. Rhoda [in Another Earth] was terrifying because she had this experience that was so overwhelming.

And so removed from most people’s lives.
Yeah! And the same with Maggie. I think what’s exciting with acting is that you can maybe live several lifetimes in one, and you can find a point of empathy for all kinds of people. You can find it for cult leaders and accidental murderers. The bigger the stretch or the farther away it is from you, the most pleasure you get in the attempt to reach for it and get yourself around it. I never want to do something that I’ve done before, and I never want to do something that I feel comfortable with.

And that’s the perk of being a writer and being an actress.
Yeah, because you can find the things that feel like a stretch for you and then push it even further.

Women can be flawed; they’re allowed to make mistakes and have that portrayed on film. The characters that you’ve written show their strength, but also the ways in which everyone is imperfect.
It’s exciting that more women are writing because I think we’re desperate to understand ourselves, and I think men want to understand their wives and their girlfriends and daughters and sisters better. I think these movies are starting to show something. Creative women are putting forth more complicated versions of femininity.

Did you know you were going to be Maggie?
Zal and I always thought I would play Maggie, and for a while she was this placeholder in all of our outlines and early script stuff. It was literally just like: “insert charismatic leader here.” But what is that? How do you write and then act charisma? Why are people so devoted to her? And then I think the thing that sort of came, what snapped her into place, is the scene she has with Peter where she breaks him down and the feeling that Peter has in that moment: that everybody really wants to be seen and be loved, not in spite of being seen but because of being seen. She’s always changing her face, and some of them are like a lot of the faces of femininity. She’s motherly and tender and then she’s innocent; she’s cruel and intense and unforgiving. So that was a terrifying thing to think about playing. I like to do the things that terrify me.

Pitchfork Music Festival 2012 Lineup Includes Vampire Weekend, Grimes, Feist & More

The annual Pitchfork Music Festival is always a doozy, full of bands you probably want to see before they blow up even bigger. This year’s event takes place at Chicago’s Union Park from July 13-15, as it usually does. Pitchfork has also announced the initial lineup: Among others to come, Vampire Weekend, Feist, Hot Chip, Grimes, Cloud Nothing, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Kendrick Lamar, Tim Hecker, AraabMUZIK, A$AP Rocky, The Field, Liturgy and Willis Earl Beal will appear over three days. As is typical by now for the six-years-old festival, it’s a nice blend of artists who got big in the last year, respectable indie veterans, experimental acts, and big tent headliner types.

Tickets go on sale March 9, costing you $45 a day or $110 for the whole weekend. Be ready with that credit card; the festival typically sells out quickly, so move fast lest you be stuck attending your local bluegrass festival (although it will probably have better food so whatever, do what you want, everything is great). There are more than 30 acts left to be announced over the next few weeks, but why wait to commit?

Members of Vampire Weekend and Das Racist Go on a ‘Dosa Hunt’

The search for proper ethnic food can lead a man to madness, if nowhere else. How could mainstream eateries possibly recreate the traditional dishes prepared by mothers and grandmothers of yesteryear? In Dosa Hunt, Stereogum’s Amrit Singh looks to find an answer to that question. He and Das Racist’s Himanshu Suri collected a handful of NYC-based Indian musicians like Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij and Neon Indian’s Alan Palomo, among others, to comb the Big Apple streets in search of a proper dosa, the traditional South Indian crepe. As this promotional trailer opens up, the whole crew is collected into one car, with Palomo explaining his mission on the phone. "Just sitting in a van on a dosa hunt with a bunch of Indian dudes," he says, and from there it’s off to the races. 

Produced and hosted by Singh, it looks like a charming documentary/travelogue that will inform you about things that you’re not very informed about, like the best Indian places in town and just how Palomo gets his acid wash looking so fly. A release date hasn’t been announced, but you can follow the official Dosa Hunt Tumblr for more information.

Super Bowl Ad Music Roundup: The Darkness Returns, NBC Learns ‘How to Succeed’

Kelly Clarkson nailed the national anthem, Madonna got her “Vogue” on with some Greco-Roman gladiator dudes, and M.I.A. flipped the bird on camera, which means someone, somewhere is probably upset and hopefully this won’t become another "wardrobe malfunction" and lead to another near-decade of safe and mostly-mediocre Super Bowl halftime shows. Outside the game and its pageantry, there were plenty of notable musical moments in the commercials, too. Here are just a few of ’em.

NBC paid homage to How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying with an all-network rendition of "Brotherhood of Man." As with any big production number, there were some low notes (Donald Trump) and some high ones (Ken Jeong’s committed shimmying, Tina Fey’s "Does a Clydesdale kick a beer at Betty White’s head?," and Ron Fucking Swanson).

Just as the world was beginning to wonder, "Hey, whatever happened to those guys who sang ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love?,’" lo, Samsung brought them back. In their ad lampooning of the Cult of Apple, The Darkness’ Justin Hawkins, with the same neon unitard but a new and slightly sinister ‘tache, leads a gleeful crowd in their signature hit. Don’t lie – you were singing along too.

Leave it to OK Go to be involved in some complex and probably hazardous obvious viral video bait. Their catchy "Needing/Getting" served as the background for an entertaining spot for the Chevy Sonic, in which the compact car bungee jumps and does kick-flips. It thinks it’s people.

An Audi ad featuring a throng of young, sexy vampires partying in the woods got the perfect soundtrack in Echo & The Bunnymen’s "The Killing Moon."

Speaking of vampires, Vampire Weekend made an appearance last night. The track "Campus," from their self-titled debut, appeared in a trailer for the upcoming CGI retelling of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax.

X Factor winner Melanie Amaro faced off against a very regal-looking Elton John in a medieval-themed spot for Pepsi. Her performance of Aretha Franklin’s "Respect" was spirited, but it was Elton who shone in his kingly role.

And finally, LMFAO made a number of appearances throughout last night’s festivities, most notably in this M&Ms ad, where in introducing the new female M&M (she’s "sexy smart," because she wears glasses, get it, you guys?), Red strips off his candy coating to "Sexy And I Know It." Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle. Yeah.

Morning Links: Justin Bieber’s First Paternity Suit, Rick Ross Speaks on His Seizures

● A California woman has filed a paternity suit against Justin Bieber alleging that she took the pop star’s virginity in a backstage hook-up and ended up pregnant. Bieber and co. are saying, of course, that the baby ain’t so. [Radar] ● E! plans to continue airing the now obsolete Kim’s Fairytale Wedding because, as one exec explains, “The program model of television doesn’t exactly keep up with the life model of real people… if Kim gets to keep her gifts, why can’t E!? [NYT] ● Speaking of lost innocence: still mostly precious teen queens Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, and Emma Roberts are allegedly in talks to join James Franco in Harmony Korine’s upcoming film, Spring Breakers, about a spring break gone terribly wrong. [EW]

● Rick Ross says that he’s cleared a “battery of tests,” and that his two-seizure day was the result of his hard hustle. “I would get two hours of sleep and keep moving,” he explained yesterday on 106 and Park, adding that, “that has to stop.” [OnSmash] ● The guy who co-wrote Kreayshawn’s “Gucci Gucci” says it’s “a weird thing” that Kreayshawn is so famous, because he’s still “eating Spam for dinner.” [LA Weekly] ● Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij has a new song, and it’s real nice. [Rostam]