You can watch the humans: the best of Gary Numan 1979-1982

Three consecutive #1 albums in England? Feh. How did the Numanonid army frighten Americans? Enough to make “Cars” a top ten — less unlikely than you think during the New Wave-dominated climate of 1979-1980 — but insufficient to start nothing more than a well-placed cult. Nothing to sneeze at, let me add. Glance at theContinue reading “You can watch the humans: the best of Gary Numan 1979-1982”

It always ends up sentimental drivel: The best of Radiohead

I’ve spent years of my professional life debating the merits of this Oxfordshire quintet. Adept synthesists who introduced fans to Talk Talk, Eno, Magazine, Coltrane, mid ’70s Miles Davis, and Neu!, Radiohead understand dialectics too: their strength is also their weakness, so I can’t imagine a situation in which they fire Thom Yorke, responsible forContinue reading “It always ends up sentimental drivel: The best of Radiohead”

Bang your tin drum: the best of David Sylvian and Japan

When Bryan Ferry appears in a vision, you look for subsequent manifestations in soup bowls, hubcaps, clouds of vape smoke, and Negronis. Wedge haircuts were endangered species in 1994, so David Sylvian and Japan got me hard at the moment when his generation looked louche. But Ferry had released no new material in seven years,Continue reading “Bang your tin drum: the best of David Sylvian and Japan”

I’m shitfaced, just laid to waste: the best of the New Pornographers

Inexhaustible devotees of the rush, instrumental filigrees, and semantic meaninglessness of power pop, the New Pornographers have nevertheless recorded an impressive canon of albums. Their love songs are valentines to being in bands or being fans; their idea of a bad time, to quote one of their indelibles, is to endure life through blown speakers.Continue reading “I’m shitfaced, just laid to waste: the best of the New Pornographers”

The fifteen best Merle Haggard covers

I’m not the best person to write about Merle Haggard, not when David Cantwell, for example, exists. “. Possessing an excellent rhythmic sense, blessed with a voice that could turn wrinkles into trenches and the instinct to alternate between talk-singing and crooning — often in the same verse — and a songwriter of masterful economy,Continue reading “The fifteen best Merle Haggard covers”

The best films of 2019, part one

In 2019 I watched well over two hundred films, new and old. On this blog I published almost eighty full-length reviews. In the next few days my readers will see listings by directors familiar to HTV and a couple of impressive debuts. I will keep the following promise: no 1917 here. So here we go…

Oh lord, help us: Grammys 2020

</a 11:10 p.m. I’m fading. I must grade and read. But Bonnie Raitt remains a Grammy evergreen whose pluckings I’ll never tire of, especially covering John Prine. 11 p.m. We’re gonna be dealing with John Legend forever, Grammy watchers. Boy, is he smooth. 10:57 p.m. Did Sharon Osbourne read the nominations for Best Rap/Sung PerformanceContinue reading “Oh lord, help us: Grammys 2020”

The safeness of ‘Harriet’ and its biopic cliches

4130_D002_00630_R Late into this film about the Underground Railroad’s most famous “worker,” the title hero turns to a group of frightened slaves she’s “stolen” and taken North and announces, “I’m Harriet Tubman, leader of this group. You do what I say!” Aglow in a sympathetic close-up, Cynthia Erivo projects determination. Yet this scene should feelContinue reading “The safeness of ‘Harriet’ and its biopic cliches”