Mr. Struggan sends his regards.

Regarding Days Are Gone by Haim

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Days Are Gone, 2013
Haim

Nico here. Mr. Struggan wanted me to get back into writing album reviews, so I chose Haim’s debut album Days Are Gone, which recently debuted at Number 6 on the Billboard 200 and Number 1 on the UK Albums Chart. Unknowingly, I saw Haim’s lead singer, Danielle Haim, perform with Julian Casablancas at 9:30 Club in January 2010 while he was touring on Phrazes For The Young (2009). Composed of Danielle, her two sisters, Este and Alana, and drummer Dash Hutton, the band brings a lot of musical experience and talent to the table. In a dearth of popular rock groups, they are successful in quenching a thirst for mainstream music made by musicians who play instruments, while also not being unfairly relegated to a “girl band” category. Haim is the rock band for the Rookie Magazine generation.

My favorite thing about Haim’s music is that its core is relatable power pop. The songs are about relationships and romance, equally confident and insecure. The music is slickly produced and draws from a lot of pop influences, but their lyrics are unpolished, which makes them believable. As they are not completely formed, I am excited about the group’s ability to grow, as opposed to being over-marketed and packaged in different colored wrappers. Happily, they don’t seem to be conflicted like Taylor Swift (always sad), Miley Cyrus (tongue), or Lady Gaga (transparent desire to be taken seriously). The troubles they draw from are fairly average, which creates a relatability unseen in a pop landscape overflowing with theatrical sets and costume budgets.

On “The Wire,” eclectic, non-abrasive guitars and percussion remind me of Vampire Weekend. The song has a great ability to get stuck in my head. Though well-crafted and recorded, there is room for deeper and more specific themes. The songs don’t convey any mental image. What movie is this the soundtrack to?

As Larry Fitzmaurice’s review of Days Are Gone notes, the band’s slick production, marketing and matching haircuts could make it easy for listeners to dismiss them. After all, they are managed by Jay Z’s RocNation. As a periphery-member of Hov’s artist portfolio, Haim is still finding their sound, and has been given room to find success in their own way. But, as fellow RocNation signee Wale’s The Gifted (2013) shows, ”doing your own thing” and even releasing a Number 1 album does not garner greatness or the mantle of “classic”. These sounds for the time are not necessarily timeless.

Mr. Struggan sends his Regards.

Regarding Don Jon

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Don Jon, 2013
Written and Directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Hey folks, Wilson here. As an unabashed fan of Mr. Joseph Gordon-Levitt ever since his 3rd Rock form the Sun days, Mr. Struggan was very eager to assign me this week’s film review. Don Jon marks Gordon-Levitt’s debut as a screenwriter and director, and sets up a starring role for the affable and multi-talented actor. 

The film’s titular character, as you may have guessed, is a Don Juan / Lothario, re-imagined for the 21st century as a suave Jersey clubber named Jon. The beginning of the film introduces a decidedly two-dimensional character, whose admitted foci in life revolve solely around his appearance, his family and friends, his sexual prowess, and most importantly of all, the gratification he receives from consuming pornography. Jon is thrown off his routine, however, upon meeting Barbara (wonderfully played by Scarlett Johansonn) who grabs enough of his attention for him to consider a real committed relationship. What Jon soon realizes, though, with help from his new community college classmate Ester (Julianne Moore) is that he’s merely traded one routine for another, and that relationships in this day and age, though maybe easier to find, are harder to maintain than it seems. 

At first, the film and its characters come off as a bit predictable and shallow; people depicted as two dimensional rom-com caricatures who are present only for comedic effect. Under Gordon-Levitt’s writing and direction, though, the film matures and blossoms as it progresses into something with depth, without any cheap sugarcoating. The supporting characters turn out, in the end, to be wonderful foils and deliverers of a healthy balance of humor (Tony Danza and Glenne Headly delight as Jon’s parents). Ultimately, Gordon-Levitt gets by on sheer confidence in his story and where he wants it to take us. 

Hollywood’s recent streak of confronting the issue of sex addiction seems mostly built to capitalize on a hot topic, but that shouldn’t dissuade you from seeing this movie. Its statement about love in the age of internet porn isn’t much of an epiphany, but it’s worth stating nonetheless, and turns out to be a clever interpretation of the Don Juan legend. 

Mr. Struggan sends his Regards. 

Shameless Plug Sunday: Regarding Mellow Pages Library

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Mellow Pages Library
56 Bogart St, Bushwick, NY

Hello, dear readers. Wilson here, presenting a special Shameless Plug Sunday Regard from Mr. Struggan. As you are aware from our book reviews, Mr. Struggan is an avid reader. What you might not know about Mr. Struggan, though, is that he is also an avid library lover. Mr. Struggan’s two most favoritest librarians, Matt Nelson and Jacob Perkins, are the custodians of the legendary Mellow Pages Library in Brooklyn. They are in need of your help, and Mr. Struggan is here to tell you why you should give it to them. 

Mellow Pages Library is an independent library and reading room located in the heart of Bushwick. Matt and Jacob, in running the space, take pride in two things most of all, their commitment to making available to the public the widest range of small and independent press publications possible, and their commitment to doing so free of charge. That second part is where you come in. Over the last year or so, Mellow pages has enjoyed rapid expansion, which has brought with it much added responsibility that, so far, Matt and Jacob have carried themselves. To insure that their positive vision for the library and its mission continues, they are now launching their first fundraiser via IndieGoGo to help cover the rent, upgrade the space, and maybe even provide a bit of wage to their volunteers. 

Mr. Struggan cannot stress enough how awesome it would be if you threw a little bit of capital Mellow Pages’ way. It would be so awesome, in fact, that Mr. Struggan has a proposition for you: share/retweet/reblog this post and spread the word, and you could receive from Mr. Struggan a free one-year membership to the library. How’d you like them apples books? Very much so, Mr. Struggan would bet. Check the link at the top to contribute to the campaign, and don’t forget to stay mellow. 

Mr. Struggan sends his shameless regards. 

Mr. Struggan’s October Festivities Playlist

Wilson and Nico here. It’s Friday the 11th, and what a better day to release into the world Mr. Struggan’s October Festivities Playlist. This month’s entry into Mr. Struggan’s playlist series is one of our finest to date, and features many treats (and a few tricks to keep you on your toes), including tracks from Leonard Cohen, Chairlift, Haim, Pogo, and many more. Enjoy!

Mr. Struggan sends his regards. 

(Source: Spotify)

Regarding Sean Scully: Change and Horizontals at The Drawing Center

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Sean Scully: Change and Horizontals
The Drawing Center, New York
Sept 27 - Nov 3, 2013

Wilson here. With Fall hitting New York fast, Mr. Struggan asked me last week to begin checking the art calendars for openings to cover. The focus of this weeks art review is the new Sean Scully exhibition at The Drawing Center. The exhibition showcases some of Scully’s early works on paper from the 1970s. Scully has always stood on the periphery of my art historical knowledge, so I was excited to have an excuse to learn more about the artist and his work. 

Scully, born in Dublin in 1945, is without a doubt one of the most accomplished Irish artists of the 20th century, his paintings having been acquired by museums around the world from the MoMA and National Gallery in the US to the Tate Modern in London. The Drawing Center’s exhibition focuses on two series of works on paper, executed in London in 1974 and soon after his arrival in New York in 1975. These 13 drawings are precisely composed in ink, acrylic, graphite, and masking tape and feature arrangements of Scully’s signature vertical and horizontal bands in plaid-like patterns. Accompanying these drawings are 60 framed pages of preparatory sketches from Scully’s notebooks and two large related paintings, also from 1975.  6 experimental works on paper, abstract text compositions made with a typewriter, are also on view. 

Being somewhat familiar with Scully’s paintings from New York’s museum collections, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the exhibition; the rough, patched compositions of his later work, though impressive, have never really resonated with me. That being said, I was really taken by this early work. It displays a much more refined technical quality, focused simply on line and color, and illuminated for me considerably the direction he took as his work evolved later in his career.

The exhibition shines in taking the opportunity to narrate this particular period early in Scully’s career. The notebook pages, framed in ten sequences, dominate the back wall and offer the viewer a rarely seen glimpse into the artist’s process. The two paintings on view in the front of the gallery further contextualize the work, showing how the ideas worked out on paper progressed and matured into large-scale works on canvas. Unfortunately, curators Brett Littman and Joanna Kleinberg took their narrative focus a bit too far. Wall texts at every turn overworked the “early career biography” angle and had too much to say about work that is fully capable of speaking for itself. Additionally, the six typewriter sketches in the show, seemingly included only because they fell into the same time frame as the other work on view, just weren’t interesting. All in all though, Scully’s work is definitely worth seeing if you find yourself in SoHo and jonsing for some good  mid-1970s abstract art. 

Mr. Struggan sends his High Regards

The Mr. Struggan Foundation's Summer Loans

Hello, dear readers, Nico and Wilson here. A sad casualty of Mr. Struggan’s dormant summer has been a lack of funds for the Mr. Struggan Foundation, a Kiva lending team for microloans to loan applicants in the developing world. 

Now that Mr. Struggan is back in action, he is making up for some lost time, and instructed us to disperse funds retroactively for his May, June, July, August, and September loans. Please check out our summer loan recipients below and consider joining Mr. Struggan’s lending team and making a difference. 

May: Carlos Alberto, Columbia [fully funded!]
June: Gbenonkpo Group, Benin [fully funded!]
July: Janet, Kenya [fully funded!, via Kiva ZIP]
August: Richard, USA [$2,355 to go, via Kiva ZIP]
September: Estrellas Celestes Group, Bolivia [$2,400 to go]

Mr. Struggan sends his warm regards. 

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