Johnny Ray Huston

2000 and gone

YEAR IN FILM: To die like a decade, to live like a brother or friend
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YEAR IN FILM I will follow him. The opening moments of Pablo Stoll's Hiroshima convey that sentiment's dedication in a single shot, a lengthy behind-the-shoulder look at Stoll's brother Juan Andres as he traverses a suburban street in Uruguay. Such a simple film, Hiroshima: a day-in-the-life structure; silent film intertitles instead of spoken dialogue; "only" one brother's look at another. Read more »

8, 9 ... 2010

Eight 2009 musical phenoms to celebrate on the cusp of a new decade
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1. SF garage rock goes pop This year saw Bay Area garage rock go pop in style and impact without losing its soul. I'm thinking of the Fresh and Onlys, and of Ty Segall's second solo effort Lemons (Goner), a lovely one. Read more »

2009 = 1989

DECADE IN MUSIC: The end of this decade sings a love song to the end of a decade past
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Guardian illustration of Cold Cave's Wesley Eisold, Robert Smith, and Crocodile's Brandon Welchez by Matt Furie and Aiyana Udesen

2009, will you be mine — my bloody valentine to 1989? More than once this year I've felt the effect of a 20-year loop. This sensation wasn't quite déjà vu, but more a sense that the underground sounds of my youth were returning, slightly transformed, as outer-reach themes for another generation. Read more »

Sprinting toward Babylon

Conrad Ruiz paints the speed-record horror and hilarity of contemporary life
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VISUAL ART I remember the first time I heard about Conrad Ruiz. I was standing by the fire on the patio of the Eagle, a spot that for me is a site of great tidings. A pair of talented San Francisco artists told me with enthusiasm about this young painter whose large-scale works depicted things like a man riding the nose of a killer whale as it burst forth from a pool, or a coach getting a golden shower of Gatorade from his triumphant team. According to their accounts, Ruiz magnified and entwined the absurdity and ecstasy of his subject matter. Read more »

Solar flair

The sun rises on songsmith Sonny Smith and Sonny and the Sunsets
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Sonny Smith knows how to write a song. He better, because he's writing a lot of them. The Oakland resident is currently shoulders-deep in a mammoth project titled "100 Records" that combines music he's composed and recorded with cover visuals by a not-small army of Bay Area artists. Anyone who has heard Smith's 2006 album Fruitvale (Belle Sound) or read his column for the Examiner is aware that he has a direct, colorful way with words. Read more »

Spacemen two

Killing time -- and orbiting Suicide -- with Moon Duo's lunar tunes
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"I think our interest in the spheres is less scientific, less intellectual, and more primal," Ripley Johnson of Moon Duo says, when asked if he and bandmate Sanae Yamada have a particular fascination with deep space. "I see it as a sort of existential mirror, or perhaps a visceral catalyst for existential experience."
The eye-catching quartet of NASA-ESA Hubble Space Telescope images on the cover of Moon Duo's four-song EP Killing Time (Sacred Bones) evoke untouched realms and a sense of unknowing, even foreboding. Read more »

Love sex fear death

Cold Cave generates a new wave of gothic eroticism
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Philadelphia freedom can become Philadelphia gothdom. Cinematically, I'm thinking of David Lynch's Eraserhead (1977), the very definition of black-and-white bleakness, and a Philly-filmed movie set within a nightmare. More recently (and obscurely), I'm thinking of Andrew Repasky McElhinney's far-from-literal 2004 film adaptation of George Bataille's Story of the Eye, seemingly based in blasted-out sections of the City of Brotherly Love.
Bataille's obsessive focus on eros' fusion of love and death is in keeping with Cold Cave, the latest musical project of Wesley Eisold. Read more »

Songs of Norway

Annie's Don't Stop brings the perfect pop
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MUSIC Hey Annie fans, relax. How many pop princesses are savvy enough to begin the intro verse of an album's kickoff song with a couplet that casually and subtly incorporates the titles of Shannon's "Let the Music Play" and Chaka Khan's "I Feel for You"? Years in the making, Don't Stop (Smalltown Supersound) has gone through more permutations than a combinatronics expert could comprehend, yet our girl brings the goods — the first seven songs are quip-sharp, catwalk-strut perfection, especially the initial one-two-three punch. Read more »

Once every two weeks

Tired of the same old writing at the same old sites? Try Try
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johnny@sfbg.com

LIT I have a stack of Try magazines on my lap as I write this. The pages are white, marked by the black of letters and photocopied pen marks and the gray shades of color photos or aged pages filtered through Xerox. Some of the pieces in issues are printouts of e-mails, or maps of sites in Oakland going into foreclosure. Others are copied from typewritten pages — or bank receipts. There are numbered lists, unnumbered lists, exquisite corpses, poetic critiques of programs, hidden sonnets for the public, and mash notes from poet to poet. Read more »

x plus x equals xx

Two takes on tracks by the xx from the album xx
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x one: 2009 is 1989 all over again. Exhibit 89: The xx intro themselves near Fascination Street, somewhere across the city from the fine times and vanishing points where Memory Tapes currently resides. Truth be told, that year is just one of many pre-millennial ones this sneaky group taps into and renovates. Their minor key, lowercase late night musings shine darkly like Young Marble Giants circa-1979. Read more »