SXSW ‘12: Shut Up And Play The Hits review

Appreciation of a concert documentary often depends on one’s interest in the band at the center of that doc. So take with perhaps the necessary grain of salt that I loved “Shut Up And Play The Hits,” that focuses on the final days of LCD Soundsystem highlighting their epic last show at Madison Square Garden. For the uninitiated LCD Soundsystem is the brainchild of James Murphy, a DJ and producer who in 2002, decided to put out his own record of dance music, recorded with live instruments instead of samples and synthesizers. What started as a few live gigs where the musicians he’d gathered had to learn the songs and translate them live basically acting as a “cover band” eventually grew into arguably one of the great bands of the last decade and a major force to be reckoned with live. But after 3 albums - each with its share of singles that would be inescapable at any dance party in the last decade - Murphy decided to call it quits.

The film follows him during the final days of the band, that he has willfully split up because according to the frontman, he’s 42 and wants to do other things with his life. The doc follows a quiet/LOUD/quiet contrast of Murphy getting out of bed to walk his dog in Williamsburg with clips of him leading a crowd of thousands at MSG going absolutely nuts. The film is about 2/3rds performance so if you’re not already familiar with LCD Soundsystem, ‘Shut Up’ doesn’t give you a big rundown of the band’s history, instead threading in bits here and there from an interview between Murphy and writer Chuck Klosterman. But the good news is the performance footage is electric. If you weren’t at the show, this will make you feel like you were there. Even if you watched the webcast (the concert streamed live on YouTube) you haven’t seen it like this.

Featuring minimal wide shots or sweeping camera moves over the audience, instead the film is shot like an observer on the stage by a handful of cameramen including the directors Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace (who also helmed the Blur doc “No Distance Left To Run”) with an assist by Spike Jonze. Also: the film is LOUD. When it screened in the Spaghetti Warehouse at SXSW, the venue had been transformed by Nike into a ‘2001’-like black void with speakers that were literally rattling our insides. (It was awesome.) The non-performance bits are just as compelling, which made me wish at times we had gotten a few more abbreviated glimpses at certain songs (instead of playing each song in the film from beginning to end) so we could get a little more of the offstage stuff. Seeing Murphy face a huge storage space full of his band’s equipment he’s chosen to sell off and break down is gripping stuff. If you’re not a fan, chances are you will be by the end. Please come back, LCD Soundsystem. The world needs you.

My Favorite Albums of 2010

If someone had told me a year ago that my favorite album of 2010 would be Beach House, I wouldn’t have believed them. Until this year they were a band I could only listen to for a few songs at a time before getting bored and switching to something else. That all changed on the band’s third album, Teen Dream, which leaked around this time last year and went into heavy rotation soon after. During the last 12 months it held it’s own against albums by many of my favorite bands, some of which didn’t even get a spot on this list.  So with much competition, here are my favorite albums of 2010.

1. Beach House - Teen Dream
Favorite Tracks:
Silver Soul, Walk In The Park, Take Care

2. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Favorite Tracks:
City With No Children, We Used To Wait, Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)

3. Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me
Favorite Tracks:
'81, Good Intentions Paving Company, Baby Birch, On A Good Day, In California, Soft As Chalk

4. The National - High Violet
Favorite Tracks:
Afraid Of Anyone, Bloodbuzz Ohio, Conversation 16

5. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Favorite Tracks: Monster, Hell Of A Life, Lost In The World

6. Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Favorite Tracks: Revival, Desire Lines, Coronado

7. Surfer Blood - Astrocoast
Favorite Tracks: Floating Vibes, Slow Jabroni, Catholic Pagans

8. Spoon - Transference
Favorite Tracks: The Mystery Zone, I Saw The Light, Nobody Gets Me But You

9. LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening
Favorite Tracks: Dance Yrself Clean, All I Want, I Can Change

10. MGMT - Congratulations
Favorite Tracks: It’s Working, Song For Dan Treacy, Flash Delirium

11. Wolf Parade - Expo 86
Favorite Tracks: Little Golden Age, Ghost Pressure, Pobody’s Nerfect

12. The Morning Benders - Big Echo
Favorite Tracks: Cold War, Hand Me Downs, Stitches

13. The New Pornographers - Together
Favorite Tracks: Moves, Crash Years, We End Up Together

14. Jenny and Johnny - I’m Having Fun Now
Favorite Tracks: My Pet Snakes, Animal, Straight Edge Of The Blade

15. Best Coast - Crazy For You
Favorite Tracks: Crazy For You, Our Deal, I Want To

Notable: Girl Talk, The Hold Steady, Wavves, Grinderman, The Black Keys, Interpol, Les Savy Fav, The Walkmen, Sleigh Bells, Vampire Weekend.

2010 Albums (So Far This Year)

It’s no Sound of Silver but LCD Soundsystem’s new album This Is Happening is full of dance-floor jams about being too old to be on the dance-floor.  James Murphy must still be obsessed with David Bowie because his influence can be heard all over the record.  Drunk Girls is Boys Keep Swinging, One Touch sounds like a Low outtake and perhaps most obvious, the album’s centerpiece All I Want takes the lead guitar line from Heroes.  It’s a shame that the band has seemingly not learned all the songs from this album yet, since they’ve been playing basically the same setlist for the last month, which doesn’t include album opener/highlight Dance Yrself Clean.