' Cinema Romantico: Cinema Romantico's Person(s) Of The Year

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cinema Romantico's Person(s) Of The Year

There is a moment in the song "When I Get Back", which opens the Handsome Furs' third album "Sound Kapital" that far exceeds spectacular and nestles right up against the tiny but beautiful territory of life-changing. At the end Dan Boeckner comes in and sings "It might sound simple / It might sound strange......It comes straight from the heart" and it is so indescribably perfect because in our current cynical, ironic, un-earnest world such a notion would sound overly simple and ridiculously strange and so then he repeats again and again and again just to re-inforce it, just to shoot all the haters down, just to speak for all us painfully and proud earnest mo-fos out there! "It comes straight from the heart!" Damn right, it does. Bless this song. Bless this band.

Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry, the husband/wife Canadian duo that comprise in totality Handsome Furs, are Cinema Romantico's Person(s) Of The Year.


As 2011 opened the infamous Mount Rushmore Of Non Bruce Springsteen Albums (central to my ridiculously melodramatic existence) looked as follows:

George Washington: Lucinda Williams' "Car Wheels On A Gravel Road".
Abraham Lincoln: Arcade Fire's "Tunnels".
Theodore Roosevelt: ?
Thomas Jefferson: ?

What constitutes a place on this hallowed vinyl mountainside? Many things. Not simply a killer album, of course, but an album where every single song is killer, so much to the point that even while you have a clear FAVORITE song on the album your "favorite" song switches roughly every 2.5 weeks. It must be an album that survives that initial 1 month, 2 month burst of "I need to hear this all the time endlessly" and lasts and lasts and lasts, etc. It must be an album that while speaking to you deeply at a specific time in a specific way also can stand apart from all that and function on its own as an objectively kick ass piece of work. These sorts of albums, as we all know, are difficult (nigh impossible) to find.

The best example I can think to constitute something that almost but doesn't quite make my Mount Rushmore is Kathleen Edwards' "Failer". 10 songs but I always skip over "The Lone Wolf", only want to hear "Sweet Little Duck" in very rare instances and merely think "Maria" is just okay. It survived a few extra months past that initial burst, unlike many albums, but it still has never equaled to me what it meant right there at the start when I desperately needed and cherished it. Close, Kathleen, oh so close, but no cigar. Ra Ra Riot's "The Rhumb Line" also made almost made it on there, fitting every possible piece of criteria except that, well, speaking honestly, their lyrics have never thrilled me all that much. I cherish that band so much because of their sound, because their sound is how I feel, and lead singer Wes Miles' voice is very, very much part of that sound but the lyrics can't quite bring it all the way home and so it never made it up onto the mountain. (Also, they put the wrong version of "Dying Is Fine" on there.)

I've always liked Handsome Furs quite a little bit. Their first two albums were anthemic, romantic, and mostly enjoyable. But nothing in any way, shape or form could have possibly prepared me for the copious riches of "Sound Kapital", the Theodore Roosevelt of my Mount Rushmore Of Non-Bruce Springsteen Albums. In the last several years I have become enthralled - one might argue, obsessed - with electronic music. Kylie was where that all started, of course, and it branched off into varying directions, and electronic music gets a rap for being - well, let Sub Pop, the record label on which "Sound Kapital" was released, tell it (because I can't possibly tell it any better):


"It’s...the first Handsome Furs album written exclusively on keyboards. This was a conscious decision. Here in 2011, the suggestion that electronic music is cold, alien or unfeeling, somehow detached from the human experience, is as lingering as it is outdated. Handsome Furs don’t just shrug off this myth on Sound Kapital, they reject it with every fiber of their shared being. On this new album they use keyboards and drum machines to forge life-affirming anthems taut with muscle and blood. These nine songs of innocence and experience occasionally look ahead to a better world in the not-so-distant future, but Handsome Furs know what time it is: Now. They are fully engaged in the moment and their surroundings, wherever that may be."

It's a road album, songs Dan & Alexei composed on their travels through Eastern Europe. Road Albums typically come with the ready-made stigma of being lonely, depressed, desperate to be with someone who isn't there or wasn't ever there, a narcotic need to be anywhere else. Maybe the "road" makes us feel that way, but what about "travel"? Travel redeems and rejuvenates and romances. It leaves you breathless while simultaneously replenishing your oxygen supply. You stand on a mountain you've never seen in a faraway place where you've never been and take in different air and just think "Yes." Or maybe you don't think at all. Maybe you just live in the moment.

Living in the moment is so confusing. "Remember those posters that said, 'Today is the first day of the rest of your life'? Well, that's true of every day but one - the day you die." That's what Lester Burnham said in "American Beauty", and the dude made a good point. How can you live every day like it might be your last (a common refrain) when it's also the first day of the rest of your life? I wrestle with these warring notions all the time and, frankly, it makes my head hurt. And "Sound Kapital" is an embodiment of this all-important war. Inexplicably, unexpectedly my entire 2011 sort of turned into a defiant The Year Of Living Every Day Like It's My Last. I could not have hoped for a better soundtrack to accompany it than this album...

1. When I Get Back. See above (and below).
2. Damage. The primary reason I'm naming "Sound Kapital" as the Teddy Roosevelt on my personal album Mount Rushmore rather than Jefferson is because I think this song would be the perfect soundtrack to accompany his Midnight Ride.
3. Bury Me Standing. My least favorite track on the album which means on 89.7% of other albums it would likely be my favorite track.
4. Memories of the Future. When God's had a tough day at the office, He likes to come home, pour a finger of bourbon and put this track on repeat.
5. Serve The People. I've already declared this my official 2012 Election Anthem.
6. What About Us? The first half of the song is all about the pain that a broken heart elicits. The second half is about how freeing it can feel once that pain is gone.
7. Repatriated. This song has more soul than Otis Redding. That's right! I said it! I meant it! I stand by it! What are you gonna do about it?!
8. Cheap Music. I read a review of "Pearl Jam Twenty" where the reviewer was lamenting the absence anymore of traditional four and five piece rock bands, essentially indicting the very "Cheap Music" which Handsome Furs are championing here. And that's fine. That reviewer and everyone else can have all the traditional rock bands they want, I'll take this guy on guitar and this girl on synth and no one and nothing else and be happy because they're more rock 'n' roll than your traditional bands will ever be.
9. No Feelings. The perfect capping song. Why? When you get back from a momentous trip or a life-altering experience you are often gripped with the sensation of having been so overwhelmed with feeling for an extended period of time that you are now, in fact, with no feeling which, of course, is one of the very best feelings out there.

Listen to it. Believe it. Long live "Sound Kapital." Long live Handsome Furs. Long live 2011. Long live The Moment. Long live rock 'n' roll.

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