July 2020 Monthly Mix

By Will Oliver, August 7th 2020 Listen Monthly Mix Playlist Stream

Artwork by Anthony Bauer

The summer of 2020 has taken us to hell and back and although it moved at a seemingly glacial speed, here we are somehow staring at August not knowing where all the time went.

July was a busy month with a ton of big releases from both rising and established indie acts, and of course a fair share of brand new artists making a great impression on us.

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David Ayer | The Tax Collector | August 7, 2020

David Ayer has had a tough go of it of late, with his latest films Suicide Squad and Bright failing to match the expectations based on his earlier material. The director has a thing for gritty, violent films based in Los Angeles and he continues this trend with his new film, The Tax Collector.

Most of the film is spent seeing David (Bobby Soto) being driven around town by his second in command, Creeper (Shia LaBeouf). David is the titular “Tax Collector” working for a crime lord who collects all that is owed to them and gets a little protection from Creeper, who is known as a crazy violent force that is eager for bloodshed.

Things change quickly for them when Conejo (Jose Conejo Martin), an old rival of the family suddenly returns and makes their life a living hell. David is forced to make hard choices and try to protect his wife, Alexis (Cinthya Carmona), and their two kids.

Ayer has proven that he can write a good script (his credits include Training Day, after all) but The Tax Collector is anything but that. This is a story that you have seen done plenty before. There is nothing wrong with that if you deliver it in a muscular fashion that works regardless. But The Tax Collector is made without any narrative heft and just goes through the expected motions without anything new or inventive to surprise you with many of its choices feeling cliche and routine.

The main issue is that the character of David is not one that you form any connection or emotional investment in. Soto lacks a true leading man’s presence here, constantly upended by the performance of LaBeouf who feels like a genuine character. Sadly, LaBeouf surprisingly has very little screentime, feeling utterly wasted. When he’s not on screen, it’s like the scales are tipped in the other direction and it never quite recovers.

The Tax Collector tries to capture this seedy underbelly side of Los Angeles with a dark murky look. But this just makes it feel like a cheap VOD release that isn’t helped by the lack of a gripping narrative or any true emotional arcs. We are supposed to care about David and the protection of his family, but we were don’t get to spend enough time with any of them to form this connection.

Ayer used shocking graphic violence and hard R language well in films like Fury and End Of Watch but here it just felt like it was used just for pure shock value rather than anything meaningful. Sure, there are some cool bursts of violence, and actors such as Martin and Cheyenne Rae Hernandez seem to be having fun and connecting to their roles. It was also fun to see George Lopez play against type as David’s Uncle Louis. Meanwhile, the scenes with his wife and family feel too melodramatic and it’s this contrast that makes the film feel like it’s going for two different things, neither of them particularly well.

Ayer is a filmmaker that has proven plenty of times that he can craft a great film. Sadly, The Tax Collector is his third straight misfire (at least in my opinion) and is a bit of a cause for concern. But I hope he can find a way to make his next film the sort of effort that he’s built his reputation on because this film surely isn’t it.

Rating: 4.0/10

Film at Lincoln Center has announce the 2020 main slate of the 58th edition of the festival. The 25 films that join the previously announced Opening selection, Steve McQueen’s Lovers Rock, Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland as the Centerpiece, and Azazel Jacobs’s French Exit as the Closing selection. Two other films from McQueen’s Small Axe anthology Mangrove and Red, White and Blue will also screen in the Main Slate.

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Gold Record is the California based musical brainchild of Noah Clark, Ryan McKone, and Evan Michalski. In March they miraculously found the inspiration to be productive during quarantine and form the band. The goal: to fuse positivity, hooks, and a strong love for one another into a tantalizing pop package.

That band set out with the goal of releasing 12 EPs that will be released through 2021. They are going strong and are preparing to release the latest, Volume Four on September 11th.

Today we have the privledge of premiering the EP’s lead single “Affirmations.” It’s a colorful and sleak funk-influnced electronic jam that catches the rest of the lingering summer days before we head into an uncertain fall. It’s chill in every sense of the word with some lovely vocal arrangements as the extra cherry on top.

Find a quote from the band about the song:

The inspiration for the song came from an instrument called the RAV Vast, which is a futuristic hand drum that sounds equal parts beautiful and mysterious. We were inspired by the organic sound, and wanted to blend that on top of a contrast instrument – in this case, a synthesized beat that really slapped. That fusion made for an interesting pop-melancholy vibe that we thought sounded like “Lou Reed + Darryl Hall by way of Gold Record”. The lyrics built on the sound inspiration with a theme about feeling uncertainty, something we were feeling a lot of in the beginning of quarantine, and opening up to the signs in life that provide affirmations that you’re on the right track. The chorus is about finding those affirmations. We sent the rough song to STRNGS and he really elevated that section by adding synth bass and the strings motif that give it that added soaring quality of what it feels like to find one’s purpose and receive some validation from the universe. The post-chrous percussion follows that feeling with that expansive rush of creative energy that one gets when they “find their groove.” Capturing that feeling in particular was something that was very important to us and our process to imprint in the music, since us finding our own groove that came from focusing our creative energies together during uncertain times is what inspired this project into being in the first place.

Enjoy the exclusive stream of “Affirmations” below and find the EP available to preorder on Bandcamp.

GOLD RECORD · Affirmations

Artwork by Anthony Bauer

Those of us in the music industry aren’t in it to make money. Especially this year, 2020, where everything is terrible and live music is dead. I’m a photographer and there isn’t much to photograph these days since live music is dead. What I will always truly be first though is a music fan. Anyone in the industry is always a fan first and then we get into this to be closer to our musical heroes. It could be working for, touring with, interviewing, photographing, or just turning new folks on to them because we believe in the music they are making.

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Photo by Justin Flythe

Future Islands have announced that their new album is entitled As Long As You Are and will be released on October 9th via 4AD.

The album sees the band finally announce drummer Mike Lowry as a full-fledged bandmember and the four-piece took on official production duties for the very first time.

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IDLES keep the steady stream of new songs coming from their upcoming album Ultra Mono, which is due out on September 25th via Partisan Records. This follows previously released singles “A Hymn”, “Grounds” and “Mr Motivator.”

This is a fiery return to form for the band with a no-nonsense punk rocker with all the relevant political and social commentary that the band is always good for.

The single release gets a big boost from acclaimed director Michel Gondry, who directs its animated music video.

Enjoy the new music video below.

Film at Lincoln Center has announced that Azazel Jacobs’s French Exit will close out the New York Film Festival’s 58th edition, making its World Premiere. It joins Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland (as the Centerpiece) Steve McQueen’s Lovers Rock (as the opening film).

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