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In Review
In Review

In Review

From Air Review’s sublime new album to Melissa McCarthy’s hilarious new comedy, here’s what you should be streaming, reading, and watching right now.

JOSÉ PARLÁ: BROKEN LANGUAGE
FEBRUARY 8th TO MARCH 28TH
HAUNCH OF VENISON
LONDON
HAUNCHOFVENISON.COM

Taking his cue from both the mid 20th-century European avant garde with its emphasis on language, psychogeography, and experimental behavior, and the early days of underground hip-hop where kids took to city walls with spray cans, marker pens, and wild abandon, Cuban- American artist José Parlá makes large-scale paintings and site-specific installations out of the mulch and mania of the urban experience. His process is grounded in wandering and words. Parlá roams through streets and boulevards, collecting material as he goes. His art is built of this accumulated detritus, layers of written-down speech, observed text, found materials and more, all reworked and erased and painted over again to create marvelous enigmatic depth. He feels his way through painted memories, covering each canvas or stretch of wall with the energy and intuitive flow of an MC hitting his lyrical stride. His textured, stratified approach recalls as much the hand-torn and time-worn patina of Jacques Villéglé’s collage work as the visceral painterly lyricism of Willem de Kooning. But it is perhaps Cy Twombly who comes foremost to mind, as your eye dances across the painted surface from scattered letter to vanished line: For all its tapping into grimy streetwise decay, Parlá’s work is infused with ineffable calligraphic grace. The New York-based artist has exhibited internationally, with recent projects including a collaboration with French artist JR for the 11th Havana Biennial and public murals for the new BAM Fisher Theatre and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, but this is his first solo exhibition and it’s sure to be memorable. DALE BERNING

KATY MORAN
FEBRUARY 8TH TO MARCH 28TH
DOUGLAS HYDE GALLERY
DUBLIN
DOUGLASHYDEGALLERY.COM

Much like a subtle inside joke, Katy Moran’s diminutive paintings come with a language all their own and leave you with the disquieting sense that things are happening just beyond your grasp. They hold your attention with all the force of a forgotten word sitting on the tip of your tongue—you can feel it, you just can’t say it. Moran’s work is always figurative, but open-endedly so. She works from photographic or remembered imagery, primarily in acrylic, oil pastel, and collage on board or canvas. She uses found frames and a subdued, almost old fashioned palette, but her mark making is vibrant. Moran talks about wanting painting to feel alive and full of energy and where many painters seem to equate energy, ambition, and clout with giant canvases, she persists in using small ones. And these domestic dimensions serve to highlight the flamboyant nature of her brushwork, in a kind of self-aware, ironic way. There is humour here and something enticingly odd. Her titles—Brain Dance, Primal Cat, Bear Fun—are bits of conversation or found text chosen for reasons Moran—or the paintings themselves—don’t explain. And the overall effect brings to mind a scene from The Royal Tenenbaums: Bill Murray’s character, Dr. Raleigh St. Clair, gives his nerdy test case, Dudley Heinsbergen, a wood-block puzzle to solve. “Where’s that red one gonna go?” enquires the neurologist as Dudley hesitates with the one coloured square. Time is up and St. Clair’s response is a chuckle: “My goodness. How interesting. How bizarre.” DALE BERNING

DIARY OF A NOSE: A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF A PARFUMEUR
BY JEAN-CLAUDE ELLENA
(RIZZOLI)
JANUARY 22ND

As the perfumer exclusif for Hermès, Jean-Claude Ellena has always kept a notebook. “The act of writing definitely helped to reinforce my memory.” With the publication of his book, Ellena’s recollections now also tell the story of how a signature scent comes to be. The short journal entries, each with its own subtitle (“Anguish,” “Temperament,” “Green”), capture both the day-to-day of Ellena’s workshop in the South of France and his deeper contemplation on what scents evoke, convey, and carry. What’s most interesting are not the enviable afternoons spent sniffing pears in Italian markets or the glamour of high fashion Parisian “launches,” but the insights that parallel other experiences of creativity, discovery, and craft. “Being somewhere else is a good way to smell something differently,” Ellena writes during a trip to Hong Kong. Observations like these illuminate the ways in which the author moves through the world. Fascinating, too, are his explanations of the chemistry at work. Synthetic sources he values for their versatility, while natural essences have “immutable contours.” At times, Ellena’s musings veer toward arrogant: “My ideas are evolving constantly,” he writes, and, “I emerge exhausted after creating a perfume.” Yet, for someone who can “pinpoint” a “smell object” out of the 200 resources in his laboratory, a little self-importance is not only well earned, but likely inevitable. At his best, Ellena’s articulation of subtlety is not unlike the experience of smelling itself, the high notes of which linger with something at once familiar and unique. LIESL SCHWABE

RECYCLED CHIC
BY AMANDA MCKITTRICK
(MURDOCH)
FEBRUARY 14TH

For some, using a sewing machine is as daunting as operating an MRI machine. These craftily challenged individuals might drool at the site of a refashioned vintage blazer or flock to craft fairs for hand-knitted mittens, but they’ll avoid such project ventures themselves. A self-taught crafter with nearly a decade spent working in publishing, Amanda McKittrick resolved to create a book that offers realistic, clear-cut tips to encourage a more free-form style of making and modifying garments and instill fashion lovers with the confidence to create. She succeeds admirably with Recycled Chic, her inspiring and informative guide to revamping and repurposing your wardrobe. With little to no sewing experience required, Recycled Chic demonstrates that even the simplest of alterations and embellishments can transform a tired garment at the back of your closet into your most beloved piece. Accompanied by step-by-step instructions and photos, McKittrick’s quick and inexpensive projects (like converting an outdated dress into a sassy strapless top or a dowdy woolen skirt into a cute winter capelet) are easier and far less stressful than braving the crowds at the stores. McKittrick states that Recycled Chic is “for those among us who aren’t content to look like everyone else, who dare to be a little different and show off our true personalities.” She aims to inspire people to make their own unique fashion mark on the world (without breaking the bank) and to revel in saying, “I made it myself!” the next time someone complements their outfit. MICHAELA MCMAHON-DUNPHY

IDENTITY THIEF
FEBRUARY 8TH

Ever since her scene-stealing turn in Bridesmaids, everyone has been waiting for the vehicle that would allow Melissa McCarthy to show off her comedy chops in a leading role. She finally gets it with Identity Thief, a film with an unexpected sweet streak reminiscent of early Judd Apatow flicks that melds a solid helping of laughs with a touching tale of friendship. When uptight family man Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman, playing it straight) finds out a Florida woman has stolen his identity, maxing out his credit cards and tying his name to a narcotics ring, he opts to take action. Frustrated by the disinterest of the police, he decides to track down his Sandy Patterson imposter in order to save his job and once solid finances. What he finds is Diana (McCarthy), a bubbly crook with a mean right hook whose misdeeds hide a heart of gold. After Sandy convinces Diana to come to Denver to help him clear his name—she’s enticed by the fact that her credit card fraud has also put her in the crosshairs of two henchmen working for a drug cartel, as well as a bounty hunter—the two embark on a road trip from hell involving multiple car wrecks, a near-arrest, and a venomous snake. Putting aside the implausible aspects of the plot (and there are many), Identity Thief smartly lets McCarthy do her thing. It offers her a platform to be both ridiculous and human—for a silly comedy, her character has a surprising amount of depth—and, whether she’s lip-synching to Kelis (“Milkshake,” of course) or dredging up her sad past, she’s a joy to watch. RACHEL DEAHL

SIDE EFFECTS
FEBRUARY 7TH

Martin (Channing Tatum), just sprung from a four-year jail sentence for insider trading, is greeted at the prison gates by wife Emily (Rooney Mara), who, faced with her uncertain future, soon spirals into depression and then attempts suicide. On the advice of Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), she begins to take an experimental wonder drug called Ablixa, and before too long, there’s a death and…well, there’s a lot of paperwork to fill out, all shot through with the unthreatening natural light of a gauzy pharmaceutical commercial. Although Side Effects may include dizziness, anxiety, and even murder, the thriller that’s being touted as Steven Soderbergh’s swan song is also likely to produce impatience and exasperation. Its odd, IV-drip pacing means that the big twist is revealed at the halfway point, which also means it’s difficult to describe much of the plot without ruining the payoff. So we’ll focus on that first hour, which alternates a cavalry of cufflink-sporting investigators, dubious cops, and brass-balls executives—each charged with heavy exposition—with a soporific glide between hotel lobbies, expensive restaurants, Hamptons mansions, and drifting sailboats. Any hope that the luxe-living tour will yield a commentary on class falls apart quickly, though, leaving the viewer with the notion that Soderbergh simply likes photographing wealth (this is, after all, the guy who directed Ocean’s Twelve). A more clearly laid out theme is the ease and indifference with which bureaucratic institutions can railroad innocent people (that’s nothing new, either; Soderbergh once made a film about Kafka). Though admirably risky, setting out to create an anodyne film noir has its perils. Jude Law—debonair and convincing—explains what SSRIs are, but the scant information we’re given about his character make it difficult to care about, say, the fate of his marriage. And Rooney Mara’s character admittedly necessitates a heavily medicated vibe, but she fades into the other neutral-gear performances that litter the background. So it’s a jolt that, for one 20-minute stretch, everything comes together in a fit of Hitchcockian masterminding—but it wears off quickly, leaving the viewer in need of refills for act three. SEAN HOWE

FEEDING PEOPLE
ISLAND UNIVERSE
(INNOVATIVE LEISURE)
FEBRUARY 5TH

Before a member of this psych-punk quintet even reached legal drinking age, they achieved what many bands have spent a career chasing: They shared a stage with Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. In fact, he opened for them. It all went down at L.A.’s storied electronic music club Low End Theory, where Feeding People were invited to play after Yorke’s first-ever DJ set. The band then became one of only a handful to ever perform at the EDM-loving venue, where they impressed Gaslamp Killer, who now plays FP’s music in his sets. And it’s easy to see why: Their sophomore album, Island Universe, is swirling psychedelia with punk attitude, plus hints of stoner metal, gentle folk, and searing blues—it’s a sonic kaleidoscope just begging for another spin at the hands of an electro mastermind. These kids have a youthful, rebellious, everything-right- now gusto, and it translates best in songs like the charging, grooving “Other Side” (perhaps the album’s catchiest track), the brain pummeling feedback of “Inside Voices,” and the Middle Eastern-flavoured rocker “Desert Songs.” Singer Jessie Jones wails, her voice a robust instrument matching the fuzz-toned guitars surrounding her. Island Universe boils with effervescence and untamed energy, captured by producer Jonny Bell of The Crystal Antlers and L.A.-based songwriter-producer Hanni El Khatib. But that’s the problem: Not to get all parental here, but what these kids need is direction. Island Universe is a gem worth hearing, yes, it’s more exciting for what it promises is to come. At this rate Feeding People could deliver a classic album by the time they turn 25. WILLIAM GOODMAN

AIR REVIEW
LOW WISHES
(BLUE VELVET/SPUNE)
JANUARY 29TH

“When we were kids, we believed in everything,” sighs Douglas Hale as Air Review’s second full-length album opens. It’s a fitting sentiment for this warm, wistful collection of songs from the Dallas-based five piece, which has been ghosting around the music world since 2009’s self released Landmarks. Low Wishes is a steady, charismatic album, channeling the soaring operatic pop of Funeral-era Arcade Fire, with a little more space and a little less jangle. But perhaps the album’s greatest strength is the way it balances those operatic tendencies with folksy influences and traditional melodies to create a nostalgic, dreamy mood that’s earnest and (slightly) bombastic all at once. “America’s Son” is a laid-back, bluegrass-infused anthem, filled with plinky banjo and white space, while “Waiting Lessons” plays like a modified version of the traditional Appalachian song “Down in the River to Pray.” It all sounds a little sweet, and indeed, all the twee standbys you know and may or may not love are woven in throughout the album—oh-oh-ohs, xylophones, handclaps, and unabashed whistling—but here the effect manages to be pretty, and even elegant, rather than saccharine or gimmicky. But it’s not all warm linens and reminiscing here. Take another standout, “My Automatic,” which comes out a little harsher than most of the other tracks—all body and snare drums overlaid with a round, jewel-like melody—but will linger in your head for hours afterwards. This is immersive, folk-infused indie-rock at its best. EMILY TEMPLE

COMPANION
COMPANION
(SELF-RELEASED)
FEBRUARY 5TH

Since her breakout 2008 album Red, Pepi Ginsberg has made a name for herself with classic, country-tinged singer-songwriter fare, slyly incorporating more styles and genres into her songs with each new album. So if her new, Brooklyn-based band Companion’s self-titled album feels like the culmination of a years-long process, that’s because it is. Now flanked by vocals from bandmates Anna Thorngate and Amy Carrigan, Ginsberg lets her voice wander freely between its warm lower register and an ethereal, athletic upper range that will undoubtedly draw more than a few Kate Bush comparisons. The effect is thrilling, as is the songwriting, which seems to come from the Dirty Projectors’ school of pop, made by and for true music geeks. Even heartbreak anthems like the album’s lead single “Only” are packed with lush harmonies, shimmering guitars, and elaborate rhythms that change without warning; and many songs feature Ginsberg’s homemade beats (“I was listening to a lot of HOT 97,” she states in the press notes). To give the album a full-figured sound, Ginsberg enlisted the wisdom of Grizzly Bear and Yeasayer producer Jake Aron, in addition to her longtime collaborator Nathan Sabatino, also one of the masterminds behind Dr. Dog. Normally, such an exercise in experimentation (and excess) can end in sensory overload—fun for the people making the music, not so much for the rest of us listening—but Companion somehow manages to keep it light, listenable, and always moving forward. KATHERINE SMITH

Illustration: ANNA KÖVECSES