California nostalgia as Bruce Springsteen introduces new sound

Bruce Springsteen will release his first new album in five years on Friday, calling it a ‘jewel box of a record.’ (AFP)
Updated 12 June 2019

California nostalgia as Bruce Springsteen introduces new sound

WASHINGTON: The sun setting over an open road, small towns down on their luck — and a horse galloping through the desert? The Boss is back, and bigger than ever.
Bruce Springsteen will release his first new album in five years on Friday, calling it a “jewel box of a record.”
“This record is a return to my solo recordings featuring character-driven songs and sweeping, cinematic orchestral arrangements,” Springsteen said.
He still belts out melancholy ruminations on the American condition in his signature gravely voice, but in this his 19th album his inspiration has changed.
Instead of small Rust Belt towns worn down by the decline of the economy and morale, he turns to southern Californian country-pop classics of the 1960s and 70s, infusing his music with a deep nostalgia for a golden era of the United States, slowly becoming buried under Californian sand but with hope for its return.
The result is a 13-track album — titled “Western Stars” — that covers “a sweeping range of American themes, of highways and desert spaces, of isolation and community,” said the 69-year-old rocker in a statement.
But also of “the permanence of home and hope.”
The album’s first single, “Hello Sunshine,” which dropped in April, sounds like a slow country ballad, with lyrics that invite hope back into an old underdog’s life.
Springsteen followed the song with “Tucson Train” in May, which tells the story of a man turning his life around. The tentatively optimistic lyrics are set to classical instruments, including an entire brass section to replace Springsteen’s late musical partner in crime, the much-loved E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who died in 2011.
“Western Stars” — whose cover art shows a horse with a glossy brown coat galloping across the desert — pays homage to musicians of Springsteen’s young adulthood.
The album features echoes of Glen Campbell, Roy Orbison and, particularly in “Hello Sunshine,” Harry Nilsson’s version of “Everybody’s Talkin.”
By playing with what has long fascinated him, Springsteen reveals more of himself, in a manner true to his characteristic sincere melancholy.
This is not the first time Springsteen has looked to California for inspiration.
Back when he was the frontman for the band Steel Mill, he attempted to break out of New Jersey between 1969 and 1971, convinced his blend of rock and rhythm and blues would be better understood in the Golden State.
In 1972, he wrote the song “California,” a year after his parents moved to the titular state. He moved there himself in 1991, where he married guitarist Patti Scialfa, who is still a member of the E Street Band.
A few years later, Springsteen recorded his album “The Ghost of Tom Joad” at his home in Los Angeles, which went on to win the 1997 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album.
“Western Stars” is Springsteen’s first studio album since 2014’s “High Hopes,” which followed “Wrecking Ball” in 2012.
It also comes months after the artist closed his wildly successful run on Broadway, a 236-concert residency that is now available streaming on Netflix.
When the show ended in December after several renewals, it was one of Broadway’s most coveted tickets, with resale prices running upwards of $1,000.


Cannes announces lineup for a festival canceled by COVID

Updated 04 June 2020

Cannes announces lineup for a festival canceled by COVID

From an empty movie theater in Paris, organizers of the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday announced the films that would have played at there in May had it not been canceled by the pandemic.

The selections were an exercise in what-might-have-been for Cannes, the international French festival that for the last 73 years has been one the most prestigious and glitzy annual gatherings of cinema. Cannes, originally slated for mid-May, initially considered postponing to July but ultimately gave up on a 2020 edition.

Hearing what would have premiered on the Crosiette this year offered a tantalizing picture of a canceled Cannes. Two films by “12 Years a Slave” filmmaker Steve McQueen — “Mangrove” and “Lover’s Rock” — had been headed to Cannes, said festival director Thierry Fremaux, as was Wes Anderson's “The French Dispatch” and Pete Docter’s Pixar film “Soul.”

Fremaux announced 56 movies that were selected from a record 2,067 submissions that poured in despite the health crisis. “I can see that film is alive and kicking,” said Fremaux, sitting on the stage of the UGC Normandie cinema in Paris alongside Cannes’ president, Pierre Lescure.

The selection announcement, usually made in an April press conference before teeming throngs of international journalists, was instead presented during a TV interview that streamed online and aired on Canal Plus. Lescure noted the unprecedented situation had some upside: It was much quieter and Fremaux didn’t have to fend off questions from various nations whose films were overlooked.

Fremaux didn’t distinguish between which films had been slated for its main selection, in which some 20-25 films compete for the Palme d’Or, the Un Certain Regard sidebar or out-of-competition premieres. Some films, he noted, opted to wait until next year’s Cannes.

The announced selection included 16 films directed by women, an increase of two from 2019. Cannes, where only one female filmmaker (Jane Campion) has ever won the Palme, has often come under criticism for not selecting more movies directed by women.

Spike Lee, whose previous film “BlacKKKlansman” premiered at Cannes, had been set to preside of the jury that would select Cannes' top prize. Last year, it went to Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite,” which went on to win best picture at the Academy Awards.

“This time, everyone will be able to give his or her own Palme d’Or,” Fremaux said.

Also among the selections: Francois Ozon’s “Summer of ’85”; Naomi Kawase’s “True Mothers”; Hong Sang-soo’s “Heaven”; Thomas Vinterberg’s “Another Round”; Maïwenn’s “DNA”; and Sang-ho Yeon’s “Peninsula.”

The films will be able to brand themselves as part of the official 2020 Cannes Film Festival selection. If accepted elsewhere, the films can still have their premieres at other fall festivals — should they happen — like those in Toronto, Telluride, New York and San Sebastian. The Cannes label will be particularly helpful for films from lesser-known filmmakers; 15 of the films announced Wednesday were directorial debuts.