Arctic Monkeys (#8) are expert miniaturists who know just what they’re doing, with reticent street urchin lead singer Alex Taylor unable to hide an undeniable charisma underneath his hoodie.


Just Think, a Month From Now It’ll Be Like the Long Break Just Ahead Never Happened

If it’s true that nobody listens to full albums anymore, there are still artists who meticulously present their material that way, so we’ll continue to judge it accordingly. There were some promising alternative rockers that came to prominence, both on indie and major labels, including some that seemed to mature artistically, like TV on the Radio, the Streets, Cat Power, Arctic Monkeys, The Decemberists and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs! There were impressive, if unlikely, comebacks by the likes of the New York Dolls and the Who as well as marvelous reinventions/career summaries from Bob Dylan, The Beatles and Ray Davies.

ALBUMS: 1) TV on the Radio, Return to Cookie Mountain (Interscope): Smart, brave, idiosyncratic, but never less than tuneful and grounded in tribal rhythms, these Brooklyn multi-racial art-rockers made the leap to major-label status without sacrificing their smarts, which probably explains why they didn’t sell any records. If it were 1994, they’d be touted as the Next Big Thing. Now, they’re just a blip on the radar, but for those tuned in, what a blip it is. 2) The Streets, The Hardest Way to Make An Easy Living (Vice/Atlantic): U.K. toaster Mike Skinner may well be the world’s best, if colloquial, rapper, someone who creates a world of his own like the best reality TV on a song like “Never Went to Church,” which pays tribute to his late father with the kind of emotion only the likes of Tupac or Biggie could muster.  3) Cat Power, The Greatest (Matador): This quirky folk diva turned to the best of Memphis and created a soul-blues classic that rivals the best of her inspirations, thanks to Al Green/Willie Mitchell guitarist Teenie Hodges, among others. 4) New York Dolls, One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This (Roadrunner): Maybe it is just David Johansen and Syl Sylvain remaining from the original band, but the spirit remains, and the songwriting isn’t too shabby, either. Isn’t it high time these pre-punk pioneers got the credit due them for influencing everyone from Kiss, Motley Crue and Guns N’ Roses to Dirty Pretty Things and The Kooks? 5) The Decemberists, The Crane Wife (Capitol): Singer/songwriter Colin Meloy is a man out of time, equally at home with Irish sea chanteys as he is with Japanese folk tales, his often arcane lyrics etched into indelible post-punk melodies that evoke the shimmering pop mysteries of R.E.M.  6) Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Show Your Bones (Interscope): Yet another band trying to fight the good major label fight without losing their indie cred, Karen O and company’s genre-hopping exercise connects while still managing to retain its intelligence. 7) Bob Dylan, Modern Times (Columbia): His third major album achievement in a row, and in many ways, the most warm and inviting of the three, its sexual friskiness given an end-of-time fatalism that literally knocks at heaven’s door. 8) Arctic Monkeys, Whatever You Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (Domino): Cut through all the Next Big Thing hype to discover these expert miniaturists know just what they’re doing, with reticent street urchin lead singer Alex Taylor unable to hide an undeniable charisma underneath his hoodie. 9) Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stadium Arcadium (Warner Bros.):  This year’s American Idiot from hard-working post-punk icons who staked their claim for rock relevance with a double-CD set that boasted more taste and less filler than you might’ve suspected. 10) Ghostface Killah, Fishscale (Def Jam/IDJ): The rap record of the year, this hip-hop story-teller weaves a detailed tale of life on the street that rivals anything you might see on The Wire. Honorable Mention: Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere (Downtown/Atlantic), Dixie Chicks, Taking the Long Way (Open Wide/Monument/Columbia), Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Live at the Fillmore East, March 6 & 7, 1970  (Reprise), The Beatles, Love (Apple/Capitol), Ray Davies, Other People’s Lives (V2), Beck, The Information (Interscope), Los Lobos, The Town and the City (Hollywood), The Strokes, First Impressions of Earth (RCA), Secret Machines, Ten Silver Drops (Warner Bros.), Wolfmother, Wolfmother (Interscope)

SINGLES: 1) Gnarls Barkley, “Crazy”: Post-modern soul, instant standard. 2) Art Brut: “Formed a Band”: DIY raison d’etre. 3)  Arctic Monkeys, “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor”: Youf anfem. 4) Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Dani California”:  Old school funk delight. 5) The Raconteurs, “Steady As She Goes”: A pop nugget. 6) Nelly Furtado, “Promiscuous”: TIMBA!! 7) Chamillionaire, “Ridin’”: Even Weird Al knows a rap anthem when he hears one. 8) Dixie Chicks, “Not Ready to Make Nice”: “We Shall Overcome” for the Blue States. 9) My Chemical Romance, “Welcome to the Black Parade”:  Populist emo. 10) The Feeling, “Sewn”: Chewy ‘70s-flavored fizz-pop that melts in your mouth. Honorable MentionRihanna, “S.O.S.,” New York Dolls, “Dance Like a Monkey,” John Mayer, "Waiting on the World to Change," Buckcherry, “Crazy Bitch,” Jimmy Parnell & Andy Samberg, “Lazy Sunday: Chronic of Narnia Rap,” KT Tunstall, “Black Horse & the Cherry Tree,” Corinne Bailey Rae, “Put Your Records On,” T-Pain, “I’m N Luv (Wit a Stripper),” Daniel Powter, “Bad Day,” Blue October, “Hate Me,” OK Go, “Here It Goes Again”

LIVE: The Who at the Hollywood Bowl, Coldplay at the Forum, Radiohead at the Greek, Arctic Monkeys at Henry Fonda, Sufjan Stevens at Wiltern LG, Roger Waters at Hollywood Bowl, Jeff Tweedy at Henry Fonda, Bob Dylan at the Forum, The Decemberists at the Wiltern LG, David Gilmour at Gibson Amphitheatre, New York Dolls at Spaceland, The Raconteurs at Amoeba Records, Noel Gallagher at the Wadsworth Theatre, Kris Kristofferson at the Troubadour

MOVIES: 1) Babel: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Guillermo Arriaga’s stunning epic makes the world seem like a small place, with a searing turn by newcomer Rinko Kikuchi as a love-starved deaf-mute Japanese girl that will break your heart.  2) Brothers of the Head: Keith Fulton and Lou Pepe’s faux documentary about conjoined twin rockers at the dawn of punk is funny and bittersweet. 3) Little Children: Todd Field’s harrowing study of suburban paranoia is Desperate Housewives on steroids. 4) The Queen: Stephen Frears’ pop culture meditation on the Royal Family and its reaction to Princess Diana’s tragic death features an Oscar-ready performance by Helen Mirren. 5) Little Miss Sunshine: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ black satire of the American obsession with winning finds the bright spots in dark psychic corners. 6) Half Nelson: Ryan Fleck’s tale of award-worthy Ryan Gosling’s crack addicted school teacher and Shareeka Epps as his disillusioned student is the rare film that deals in shades of gray. 7) A Prairie Home Companion: Robert Altman’s swan song is a prescient meditation on death that manages to sum up the director’s lifelong concerns in a fitting farewell. 8) Stranger Than Fiction: Marc Forster’s literary conceit manages to combine the head and the heart in an old-fashioned romance that lingers with a soundtrack that offers some new wave chestnuts. 9) Art School Confidential: Terry Zwigoff’s satire isn’t as edgy as Ghost World, but angry and off-beat all the same. 10) United 93: Paul Greengrass’ chilling semi-documentary about the ill-fated flight pays tribute to the indomitable human spirit. Honorable Mention: Martin Scorsese's The Departed, Jonathan Demme’s Neil Young Heart of Gold, Greg Whiteley’s New York Doll, Manu Boyer’s I Trust You to Kill Me, Michel Gondry’s The Science of Sleep, James McTeigue’s V for Vendetta, Spike Lee's Inside Man, David Frankel’s The Devil Wears Prada.

TV: 1)
Friday Night Lights (NBC), 2) Huff (Showtime), 3) Weeds (Showtime), 4) Big Love (HBO), 5) Brotherhood (Showtime), 6) Entourage (HBO), 7) My Name Is Earl (NBC) 8) The Office (NBC), 9) Deadwood (HBO), 10) Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (NBC) Honorable Mention: Desperate Housewives (ABC), Love Monkey (CBS/VH1), Brothers and Sisters (ABC), Six Degrees (ABC)

, Everything I’m Cracked Up to Be (Harcourt), Lonn Friend, Life on Planet Rock (Random House), Barney Hoskyns, Hotel California (John Wiley & Sons), Simon Reynolds, Rip It Up and Start Again (Penguin), Geoff Emerick, Here There and Everywhere (Gotham Books), Jerry Schilling w/Chuck Crisafulli, Me and a Guy Named Elvis (Gotham Books), Vivien Goldman, Bob Marley: The Book of Exodus (Three Rivers Press)

Friday, Dec 8th
Clippers @ Spurs on FSN Prime Ticket: The Clippers are seeking their first road win after two impressive home wins. Brand and Livingston appear back on track, but they will have to be near flawless ball to beat the Spurs on the road.

Dashboard Confessional w/ Brand New @ Madison Square Garden.

Saturday, Dec 9th
Downtown on Ice @ Pershing Square Park (532 S. Olive St): Open for a glorious, nearly two-month stretch from mid-November to mid-January, Downtown On Ice caters to both the serious skater (you can bring your own blades if you got 'em) and the seasonal novice. There are a host of special events, including free hockey clinics with the L.A. Kings, the Glide In holiday-themed movies on Wednesdays, and Friday Night Freeze Zone concerts; night skating, when the skyscrapers are lit up, remains a popular pastime, too. So pull that muffler out, hit the rink and spin beneath the palms.

#6 Texas A&M vs. #1 UCLA Bruins @ Pauley Pavilion on CBS: This will be the first real test for the undefeated Bruins, as AC Law and company will look to upset them.

KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas Night 1 @ Gibson Amphitheatre: The lineup includes Foo Fighters, AFI, My Chemical Romance, Fall out Boy, 30 Seconds to Mars and more.

Clippers @ Memphis.

Ciara @ House of Blues Atlantic City.

Sunday, Dec 12th
Giants @ Panthers on Fox: Two struggling and desperate 6-and-6 teams will look to gain the upper hand in the wide-open Wild Card race with a win.

Broncos @ Chargers on CBS: Denver is in a must-win situation as they battle San Diego, who are looking to clinch at least a share of the division with a win.

KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas Night 2 @ Gibson Amphitheatre: The second-night bill includes The Killers, Evanescence, Panic! at the Disco, Snow Patrol, Angels & Airwaves, The Raconteurs and the Foo Fighters.

LADWP Holiday Light Festival @ Griffith Park: If you have yet to take the family and drive through this amazing light show, it is definitely worth checking out.

Saints @ Cowboys on NBC: This should be an ultra-competitive game, as gutty New Orleans continues to surprise the experts.

Blood Diamond
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, Djimon Hounsou
Set against the backdrop of civil war and chaos in 1990s Sierra Leone, Blood Diamond is the story of Danny Archer, a South African mercenary, and Solomon Vandy, a Mende fisherman. Both men are African, but their histories as different as any can be, until their fates become joined in a common quest to recover a rare pink diamond that can transform their lives.
My feelings about this movie are mixed; part of me wants to believe this will an awesome action flick, and part of me says it isn’t going to be so good. However, Jennifer Connelly is very hot, so she might be worth the price of admission alone.

The Holiday
Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black
Nancy Meyers' romantic comedy follows two women who exchange houses in order to get a new lease on life. After each suffers her fair share of romantic disappointments, Englishwoman Iris and L.A. woman Amanda meet on-line at a website devoted to helping people exchange houses for vacations. Each agrees to spend the Christmas holiday at the other's home.
The perfect romantic comedy that you and your significant other can enjoy.

Breaking and Entering
Jude Law, Juliette Binoche, Robin Wright Penn, Martin Freeman  Synopsis: Anthony Minghella’s latest feature is about theft, both criminal and emotional, that follows the lives of three people whose lives intersect.
Thoughts: This movie could definitely be a sleeper, but I don’t know much about it. I mean, I just found out about it this week when glancing at what’s opening this weekend.

Other movies opening this weekend:
Apocalypto: I refuse to say anything about this movie.

The Lupe Fiasco CD is a must-have if you’re a hip-hop fan—it’s a nearly flawless debut for the Chicago-based rapper. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but as soon as I popped the disc in the car, I found myself hypnotized.

John Legend’s sophomore album, Once Again, is absolutely brilliant. It’s definitely more adult than the big-selling 2005 debut, as Legend solidifies himself as one of the best R&B singers around. A must-have for R&B fans, young or old.

The Game’s Doctor’s Advocate- One of the best rap records of the year. He takes it back to old school west coast rap; it has a Dr. Dre feel about it. A must have for any hardcore rap fan. This might help the west coast make a comeback.

V for Vendetta:
This is my favorite movie of the year so far, for many reasons. It's more than just a comic book adapted for the big screen; it’s a movie that makes a big political statement that we can all relate to these days. Definitely a movie that was slept on, and I advise everyone to check it out if you haven't yet.

Babel: This may be the most depressing movie I have ever seen, but also maybe one of the best. It’s simply breathtaking and almost leaves you speechless when it ends. I must warn you that this film isn’t easy to watch, but it’s definitely worth seeing.

The Last King of Scotland:
All I can say about this one is Forrest Whitaker is unbelievable, and although there are still plenty of good movies to come out, I hope Forrest wins for this role. He is truly one of the most underrated actors of our time.

Happy Feet:
Sheer brilliance. It is more than just an animated movie about penguins; it has real-life political views and it is definitely a movie the whole family can enjoy. The music is awesome, and the dancing is sensational, thanks to Savion Glover.

Little Children: This movie is incredible in so many ways, including the unique way it was executed. Hard to describe, it’s one of those movies that just leaves you breathless.

Casino Royale:
One of the best Bond movies I have seen.

Borat: All I have to say is, “very niiiiiiiiice, I like it.” This is by far the funniest movie of the year.

World Trade Center: Another important movie that I urge people to see. I was in tears, and although a lot of it is hard to watch, it’s quite an astonishing story.

The Illusionist:
Giamatti and Norton are truly brilliant.

X-Men III: The Last Stand: If this is the last one, it certainly satisfied my appetite. It had it all, including some incredible action sequences.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Simply awesome! Johnny Depp is brilliant, Bill Nighy is creepy, Keira Knightley is sexy and it has great special effects and nonstop action.

Mission Impossible III: OK, people are getting sick and tired of Tom Cruise, but if you can just get past him, this movie is actually really good. A lot of people are missing out because they’re so turned off by the star’s off-screen antics.

An Inconvenient Truth: The most important movie of the year. A must-see.

The Devil Wears Prada: Makes my list because Meryl Streep is truly brilliant, and if you haven’t seen it, or are on the edge about seeing it, go for her performance, if for nothing else.

Former Island chief gets his own label. (6/16a)
How'd they do that? (6/15a)
We're reading the tea leaves. (6/15a)
"Variant" is a scary word right now. (6/15a)
Is there a lawyer in the house? (6/15a)
The musical tapestry we know as R&B.
Predicting the next big catalog deal.
Once we all get vaccinated, how long before we can party?
How is globalization bringing far-flung territories into the musical mainstream?

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