Best Reissues 2016

homepage_large-6c37139aBig Star / Complete Third

More mythos undone.  Three versions of everything: demo, rough, finished.  This album has always been portrayed as a sort-of-flung-together album, but hearing these songs in earlier forms really showcases the strength of Chilton’s songwriting.  Does it help if you’ve lived with the original for years: yes – but don’t sleep on my fave Big Star for that reason…

afterschool-special-the-123s-of-kid-soul-1Afterschoool Special: the 123’s of Kid Soul

The first volume from 9 years ago had me hooked on these lost cuts from Jackson 5 inspired children soulsters.  Few you’ve ever heard of, but it matters little.  “We Don’t Dig No Busin‘” , “Running Wild (Ain’t Gonna Help You)” and “I’m Free No Dope For Me” are all standouts.  As is a kid version of Gil Scott Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”  where they’re rappin’ sooo fast to get all the lyrics in.

71atjbeo-l-_sl1200_Sandy Denny / I’ve Always Kept a Unicorn

Sandy demos with mainly just guitar and her voice.  Of all her under-rated glories these are my favorites.  Two of my most favorite songs ever grace this compilation: “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” and “By the Time it Gets Dark“.  Know thy titans.

cs615461-01a-bigThe Aggrovators / Dubbing at King Tubby’s

The base root of dub.  I’m sure they never dreamed their low-fi operation would produce a style and sound that (for me) works with everything.  Tubby, Jammy, Scientist all make mixing appearances, in this most sacred of musical locations.

5026328503455_t28668099960054Betty Harris / The Lost Queen of New Orleans Soul

Many soul compilations break down to a familiar ratio: 30% great; 30% better-than-average; 40% okay.  Massive props to the compiler of this overlooked 60’s soul siren because it is ALL KILLER  no filler.

mi0000599962Terry Allen / Lubbock (On Everything)

Hillbilly poet/artist Terry Allen falls into the singer-songwriter category, but that almost feels like a diss because these songs are so easy and true.  One of those records where you’ll laugh and say: “he’s totally right” after every great lyric.  “The Most Beautiful Waitress” is also a contender for song of the year (plus I got my new life mantra from this record: “My Ego Ain’t My Amigo“).

600x600Labelle / Nightbirds

Not technically a reissue, but I heard this for the first time this year, and I have not been the same.  Labelle was a MACHINE in 1974, I have not heard a band as infectious, tight and overwhelmingly amazing as this for many moons.  “Space Children“, “All Girl Band“, “Are You Lonely?”, : constant, permanent, repeat…

5026328403342_t27187905080054BoomBox 1 / Early Independent Hip-Hop, Electro and Disco Rap 1979-82

Two discs of 6-9 minute party raps may sound a bit redundant, but it’s the spirit of this era that really shines through.  A tad monochromatic in execution, but anyone who doesn’t know the sound of early block-party hip hop should hear and recognize the genesis contained within.

51rgq7aax5lThe Shaggs / Philosophy of the World

Okay, technically you only need to hear this once, but it warms my black heart that this New Hampshire sister trio gets reissued.  Sloppy, maddening, and irresistible.  At this particular juncture in the history of America, this record reminds me that we’re all a part of something, and every voice counts…

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Best new music 2016

indexA Tribe Called Quest / We Got it From Here

What a way to go out!  Rap often has the benefit (sometimes hinderance) of currency, but i can’t remember a record that hit so perfectly at the exact right time.  The sound of the past, present and future…

david-bowie-blackstar-2016-billboard-1000David Bowie / Blackstar

A spectacular cultural coup.  Not only does Bowie make one of his best albums of the last 15 years, but he controls his exodus with a final statement that is both devastating and life-affirming.  Who else could have pulled off such a succinct final act?….oh yeah….

lc_youwantitdarker_coverartLeonard Cohen / You Want it Darker

I will truly miss hearing what this voice has to say.  Sparse, deep, honest and solemn.  Very simple production, but on par with 80’s masterpieces such as I’m Your Man.  Adios, L. Cohen, your shadow will linger on.

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The Wedding Present / Going… Going..

At this phase in their career, to make a sprawling, epic, style-switching album of this magnitude seems too good to be true.  It’s not; it’s some of the most rewarding music they have ever made.  It’s always great to hear what you never imagined.

crab-dayCate Le Bon / Crab Days

Cate switches it up again.  For a vague reference, imagine Nico fronting the Sugarcubes.  I wonder how this all holds together sometime, but I still remain enthralled.

gbx025-stasis-cover-artwork-1400-coverPye Corner Audio / Stasis

I have been steadily enjoying this band for many years.  Soundtrack for my daily dream world.  A great album to start and end a day with.

lc2e1bbWolf People / Ruins

Rippin’ boogie rawk, slightly prog-ish lyrics, the BEST drum sound I have heard all year, plus glorious cover art, need I continue…

6283828The Low Anthem / Eyeland

Stretching out cosmically, the Low Anthem continue their run of wonderfully organic sounds and mystical ruminations. “Pepsi Moon” is a runner-up for best song of the year.

imagesThe High Llams / Here Come the Rattling Trees

A blissful soundtrack about riding your bike around, and other simple pleasure.  The music, lyrics and mood all match perfectly.  Their toned-down best?  Perhaps…

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Best New Music 2015

(No real order, but most of these were played far more than plenty…)

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Moon Duo / Shadow of the Sun

Moon Duo kinda just do one particular thing, but they do it sooooo good.

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Tame Impala / Currents

Gone are the guitar hysterics and instead we get the most-produced, sing-alongable album of the summer.  Three words: headphones, headphones, headphones.

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Esme Patteron / Woman to Woman

Glorious surprise of “answer” songs to guy-centered famous lady songs and that’s just the hook to get you in.  Impeccable guitar playing and songwriting, but best of all; Esme sounds like she’s having a whole lotta fun…

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Laurie Anderson / Heart of a Dog Soundtrack

I guess I should probably see this movie because I’m moved by the soundtrack nearly everyday.  Meditations on the dignity of death, whether it be her mom, her dog, or Lou.  I always associated Laurie with her avante-gardey kind of 80’s stuff.  This is just someone telling you something you need to hear.  Beautiful beyond belief.

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Circus Devils / Stomping Grounds

Gotta have some Pollard right?  He had solo albums as well as the Ricked Wicky thing this year, but the Devils are the best.  Completely un-classifiable without being too weird to process.  Not an easy thing to do…

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Protomarytr / The Agent Intellect

We may someday reach a point where math-rock (or whatever you want to call it) simply exhausts all the tricks it can do.  Protomarytr re-affirm a genre previously lost to me.  Also, if you know someone named Stephen, they should buy this album and play Feast of Stephen really loud.

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Sufjan Stevens / Carrie & Lowell

This guy always seemed a little too clever for me.  He strips away all the ironic name-dropping literation-based shit and just makes a heartbreakingly lovely album about his mom.  This record has consistently floored more than all the others this year.

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Taco Jon’s Greatest Hits Vol. 1

Full disclosure: Taco’s a friend of mine.  He’s somehow channeled an entire orchestra and big band to make songs about banana hammocks, nachos and drugs.  Humorous at times, sure, but then other times, I listen to a song like “Better Lovin” and think this guy is the Burt Bacharach of our time.

 

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Best Reissues 2015

(older stuff where they’ve turned the bass up and charged me twice…)

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Punk 45 / Burn Rubber City, Burn!

Man this series is fun!  Half of this stuff you might know and other half is ultra-obscure wackiness.  Micro-blasts that remind you why the weirdest state has the best output.

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Mamman Sani Abdoulaye / Unreleased Tapes 1981-1984

Highly bubbly, non-digital synthesizers from Africa.  I listen to this every morning.

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Unwound / Empire

The great recorded output of Unwound comes to an end.  This comp features the double album Leaves Turn Inside You, as well as Challenge for a Civilized Society.  Proof that Numero can reissue any genre well.

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The Flaming Lips / Heady Nuggs 1994-1997

I’m gonna be honest, my old CD sounds better than this remaster.  However, this the pinnacle of the Flips for me (Clouds Taste Metallic).  Their last guitar-oriented, distorted, BAND-driven album.  Not that what happened after this was bad (it was VERY good), but this is the Flips I hear in my head.

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Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten Soundtrack

Cambodian rock in the late 60’s-early 70’s is a glorious music.  It’s instantly dance-able, super funky, and phonetically fascinating to me.  SEE THIS DOCUMENTARY, when you get the full story of the implications that the war in Vietnam (and the U.S.) played, ……damn.  Inspiring stuff.

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Willie Nelson / It Will Come to Pass

Okay, this technically came out last year, but it’s new to me.  Willie rules, this is known.  What’s not known is how wildly varied his early RCA output is.  It can be kind of messy, and we can thank the great Omni Records for cherry-picking some of the best bits here.  Wacky, saccharine, and yes: metaphysical.

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Led Zepplin / Physical Graffiti

Being from Kansas City, I though I’d never need to hear this album again.  How wrong I was.  Most double albums are unnecessary, but not this.  Everything in its right place.

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Bob Dylan / 1965-1966

Two discs of alternate versions from the best, most-frenetic Dylan era known, is fine with me.  Also amazing that they sell a 6 and 18!!! disc version of this thing.  “I need a dumptruck, baby, to unload my head!

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White God (2014)

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Finally got to see Kornél Mundruczó‘s 2014 film: White God last night: Benji it is not.

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Here’s the quickest and most accurate synopsis (via Wikipedia):

The film follows the mixed-breed dog Hagen who moves, along with his guardian Lili, in with Lili’s father. Unwilling to pay a harsh “mongrel” fine imposed by the government, Lili’s father abandons him. Determined to find Lili again, Hagen soon attracts a large pack of half-breed followers who start a seemingly organised uprising against their human oppressors.

As a film, it’s a little clunky in parts, but that is my one lone critique of an otherwise amazing movie.  The visual of 250 dogs running rampant through civilized society is worth it alone.  Even more impressive is the complete absence of CGI.  All the dogs are real.  Real strays, from a pound, cutting loose like 4th graders at recess.

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The ever-sharp Tasha Robinson (via the Dissolve) points out the sort of dual viewing behavior that manifests itself while watching the film.  While it’s easy to get caught up in the allegory of the disenfranchised, you keep watching and thinking: How did they get those dogs to do that?

Mundroczo explains:

The dogs felt they were playing. It’s a dramatized nature movie, somehow. We gave lots of freedom for the animals. I don’t like most animal movies because the animals [feel] dead. They follow orders with lots of fear of the trainer. What were are doing was just the opposite. Logistically, we had half a year of training time. We had a very special method for shooting: one week shooting, one week rehearsing. We built a kind of town in the countryside where we could rehearse, because you cannot block locations in the city. And for me, personally, it was like therapy. I forgot how it was to be close to animals. How much patience and how much time you need, and concentration and curiosity. I have an adult controlfreak attitude. The dogs taught me a lot.

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Which also leads me to wonder how to accurately judge the acting ability of the lead dog: Hagen (who was played by two identical littermates from Arizona).  Sure, most of the “emotive” scenes with the dogs are probably due to great technical movie-making, (i.e.  editing, timing, etc.),  but I can’t help but think some of these dogs are the best actors I’ve seen lately.  Like White Fang, the emotions that drive story are propelled by the animals just as much as the humans.  If they weren’t so believable, the whole film simply wouldn’t work.

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Anyway, my basic premise here is simply: “See this movie!”.  The only warning I would give is that it’s a bit more violent than the trailer suggest (uprisings usually contain some bloodshed), but the payoff of the last scene will leave you floored.   I guarantee that when you get home the first look you give your canine companion, waiting patiently for you, will be a little different than it was before…

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Best New Music of 2014

(Again, no real order, see last year’s here.)

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Iceage / Plowing Into the Fields of Love

Third album from this most exciting of bands.  They stretch out without losing anything.  The palette is slightly different this time around, but with the same glacial results.  (Less Unwound, more Joy Division, but even that’s not fair to them.)

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Eno & Hyde / High Life

These two actually put out two records this year, and it’s tough to pick just one.  They should have just released the whole thing as one.  Most *older* artists look bad trying to keep up with the current; Eno reminds us he invented this stuff.

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Sun Kil Moon / Benji

Too bad Kozelek’s 6th grader online bullshit will be what’s remembered this year.  He happened to make the best album of his career so far.  The level of personal detail (not sordid, but explanatory) gives these songs a power I’ve not experienced before.

fd3eef84Sharon Jones / Give the People What They Want

Damn.  Some artists make soul music that sounds like older soul music while some try to update the sound.  Sharon Jones simply is.  I doubt she even thinks about it, it’s just what she does.  “Retreat” and “Stranger to My Happiness” are classic soul anthems that could sit alongside anything from any era.

downloadThe Phantom Band / Strange Friends

For some reason, every OTHER album this band makes blows me away.  Fantastic bizarre instrumentation and grooves and rhythms all their own.  Check them out;  their music is far too adventurous to ever crack whatever the mainstream is anymore.

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Jane Weaver / the Silver Globe

So her last album was a quiet affair about magic and evil, and this is synthy, Krauty and still very magical.  Dense, dynamic and glorious.  Proof that the best things sometimes happen under the radar.

PoB-15-SG-WOW-front-jacket-webSteve Gunn / Way Out Weather

For those who appreciate non-masterbatory guitar playing.  Intricate, nearly-African vamps of amazing interlocking instrumentation that actually comprise some of the best SONGS I’ve heard this year.

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Circus Devils / Escape

This is not my mandatory Pollard entry!  GBV collapses yet again; they make another fine album; sure, but this is where the action is.  Circus Devils actually out King-Crimson themselves and make the damn strangest but fun record I’ve heard all year.

tumblr_nglsl3ZrWP1rsdwmjo1_1418612727_coverD’Angelo / Black Messiah

Wow, timing really is everything.  The mastery of the genre of soul is exquisite here, but the real trick is the way it sounds.  The arrangements are classic but the production is new, things don’t sit where they sat before.  Hope we don’t have to wait 14 years for the follow-up…

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Spoon / They Want My Soul

I’m gonna be honest, I was over this album pretty quick, but damn if I didn’t love it real good for a couple of days…

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Best Reissues of 2014

(Again, no real order.  See last year’s here.)

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Various / The Sound of Siam Volume 2

Again, something about this music overpowers me, I know it sounds silly, but I can’t really even rationally talk about it.  You investigate….

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Bob Dylan / Complete Basement Tapes

Big deal for me.  I have owned 3 different bootlegs of this stuff.  The sound is raw as hell, but at least it’s audible this time.  Covers, substantially different versions, and moments of WTF make this the most human of musical offerings.

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Various Artists / Darkscorch Canticles

You wouldn’t think a whole compilation of bad hard rock/metal/prog bands from the Midwest would be this good.  There is an evil, heaviness of adolescence that I think will speak to anyone who ever drew a bad pentagram on their notebooks.

download (1)The Chills / BBC Sessions

Given that these guys were making their wonderful chill-rock in Australia in the early 80’s, I always assumed I would never get to hear how they sound live.  Finally, I know, and it’s more rambunctious and thrilling than I imagined.

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Various Artists / the Way Out Label

Jim-Brown-funded Cleveland soul.  The variety kills, the hits are thick, and the story is even better.  Again, this is only ONE entry in the whole Eccentric Soul series.  Numero should get a monument named after them.  The past is only history if it’s known.

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Yo La Tengo / Extra Painful

The most minimal of masterpieces get a sonic clean-up and an extra disc of demos.  Again, not a record I cannot emotionally separate myself from.  For me this album represents light, motion and time.  No mean feat.

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Various Artists / Local Customs: Cavern Sound

Cherry-picked sampling of bands recorded in a cave in Missouri.  Part Nuggets, part country-funk, part mutant soul, Cavern Sounds goes deep.  Again, did I mention Independence, Missouri ?!?

bizarroWedding Present / Bizarro

Part of my infatuation with this is that I played George Best so much, I totally missed this one.  Their second record from 1989 is less jangle and more terror.  Great remaster with all b-sides, Peel Sessions, and a whole live show.

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Various Artists / Native North America Volume 1

Kevin “Sipreano” Howes spent 15 years assembling this music of Indigenous Peoples of Canada and the northern United States.  Another life-affirming glimpse into “Arctic garage rock from the Nunavik region of northern Quebec, melancholy Yup’ik folk from Alaska, and hushed country blues from the Wagmatcook First Nation reserve in Nova Scotia

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Captain Beefheart / Sun Zoom Spark

Great sound; an extra disc of alternates and demos; all good stuff.  But what’s really amazing is if you’ve never heard this era Beefheart before.  These three post-Trout-Mask albums are Beefheart at his challenging-but-still-listenable peak.  There is an alternate universe somewhere where these songs are as common as Led Zep, and I want to live there…

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How ill was the Sherm ? pt. II

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So I’m watching Soul Train re-runs with the kids on Saturday morning, which is pretty normal.  It’s an episode from the early 90’s (not prime period), and Stacy Lattisaw is the guest.  I’m getting pretty bored by her robotic-smooth-electro-ballads, when the following occurs:

This must have been his “Party All the Time” moment. *  But in general, there is so much to love:

those glasses

the general manically funky moves that only le Sherm can do

the fact he obviously give not shit one about even appearing to lip sync

Anyway, just wanted to share.  It certainly was the random non-cable highlight of the month.  More Sherm here.

 

* (The only musical thing I knew about Sherm was his unreleased album with Jon Anderson from Yes!)

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Choose-your-own synopsis

 

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Summary Bug has stumbled on a rare type of computational comedy.  Apparently, a random glitch on the Netflix app has caused certain summaries to “blend together“.  The results end up looking like a good Madlib.  Will a new form of entertainment be born from these irregular pairings !?!

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I doubt it, but most of these synopsis look better than the originals…

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(super-ewww)

pic3(hard times for Goofy family…)

pic5 (this would actually explain Creed better than reality could…)

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Anyway, keep checking, they keep getting better and better.  Hopefully Netflix won’t fix this issue anytime soon…

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Earthbound and down

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I was recently reminded, (in a rather cruel way) of how engaging and meaningful the ideas of the science-fiction genre are.  When most Hollywood movies seem to be a remake or a comic book, we can often look to sci-fi for the fantastically visual and cerebrally interesting.

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Case in point: the new Jonathan Glazer film Under the Skin.  It is optically wonderful as well as meditative and desolate (both visually and emotionally).  There are some uncomfortable moments that are not visceral but situational.  Scarlett Johansson, taking a break from the blockbusters, plays the alien man-stalker.  She tries to pick up single men in order to take them to a dark place where some mystical alien goo engulfs them.  But things change and roles are reversed.  That’s pretty much the movie….

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Except of course for how it feels.  Lonely, desolate, and alien, Under the Skin has the pacing of an 60’s art-house film, and the creepiness of a Twilight Zone episode.  The sound design is fantastic, and probably responsible for a large part of the uneasiness rampant in this film. Glazer has a style of his own (that certainly owes something to Kubrick, Lynch, and even Antonioni).  It is a singular film experience and one I would wholeheartedly recommend.

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But when thinking back to the merits of the sci-fi genre; the most impressive factor of Under the Skin is that it appears to be emotive-based science fiction as opposed to idea-based science fiction.  Nothing is revealed to us about this alien huntress, we as viewers are left to experience our world through her.  One of the most revealing scenes is when the protagonist gets utterly distorted in that crucible of late-20th century labyrinths: the mall. This alien can do few things well in this world  She has trouble talking to the men she hunts and no sense of working human groups and relationships. One sci-fi trademark notably absent from this film is any sort of advanced technology.  It is alluded to, but only by circles, colors and sounds.  Instead the movie relies on an impressionistic palette of displacement and isolation.

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Highly discuss-able and visually stunning, Under the Skin, is a fantastic cinematic anomaly, as well as another promising step on the continuously interesting path for Glazer.

 

 

 

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