True Detective Season One Finale: “The Light’s Winning”

cohle_rust

Nic Pizzolatto, the breakout writer and showrunner behind HBO’s character-study-masquerading-as-cop-drama True Detective, has been adamant in interviews that Detective is not a show as interested in serial killers or grand conspiracies as it is in telling the story of its two central characters, Rust Cohle (portrayed brilliantly by Matthew McConaughey 2.0) and Marty Hart (portrayed just as brilliantly by Woody Harrelson). Certainly, the underlying themes of TD—chief among them being Pizzolatto’s obsession with down-south mysticism—inform the story of these two, but the chief concern has always been the psyches of our two captivating leads. When viewed through that lens—that of a character study—, it’s clear that True Detective’s season finale this past Sunday was not only captivating, thrilling television, but a complete and utter success in what it set out to do.

There was plenty of entertainment in the episode: Errol’s sexual relationship with his half-sister is chilling and almost darkly humorous in a Twin Peaks kind of way as he offers to “make flowers” with her, the scene in which Rust asks if he seems like “more of a talker or a doer” before shots are fired from a sniper in the distance evokes a pivotal scene from Breaking Bad’s finale (before he drives off with a friendly “L’chaim, fatass”), and the production design and camera work of the heart-stopping sequence in which Rust chases Errol through the woods is gorgeous and brilliant in a The-Shining-meets-Pan’s-Labyrinth kind of way (a quick side note to give credit to Cary Fukunaga for the brilliant technical work he did all season long: the color palette of this season was perfectly rendered, the camera movement was graceful and methodical, and all the extreme long shots—not to be confused with the long take at the end of episode four—of the bayou were gorgeously filmed).

But the brilliance of this finale starts with the end (time being a flat circle and all that); the last 15 minutes of the episode (everything that happens after Errol is shot in the head by Rust) are nothing short of a perfect way to end this season-long story, particularly the incredibly moving closing lines, delivered by Cohle: “If you ask me, the light’s winning.” As Pizzolatto repeatedly states in intereviews, in True Detective, the two central characters—the experiences they’ve been through and the ways in which they’ve changed over the course of a decade and a half—have always taken precedent over the identity of the Yellow King or how far and wide the Carcosa cult and Tuttle cover-up conspiracy spread. In this regard, there is a hugely important, yet relatively subtle, tonal shift that takes place in the seventh episode of the season, when Rust asks Marty about his personal life. As a viewer, the immediate reaction to this is probably one of surprise; you might even find yourself trying to formulate some ideas on what Rust’s ulterior motives might’ve been to ask Marty about his personal life. Even Marty himself comments on how much of a change this represents for Rust, as the Rust Cohle of 1995 or even (perhaps especially) the Rust Cohle of 2002 would never in a million years ask Marty (or any other co-worker for that matter) about his personal life.

Looking back on that moment now after the finale, it seems likely that after all Rust had seen and been through and lost, and after all the time he spent ruminating on that loss and that experience, he realizes that Marty is the closest thing to a friend he has in this world. What’s so beautiful about these last two episodes is how much Marty and Rust have changed over the years, and how that change has made them realize how much they really mean to each other. There are two separate moments in the finale that illustrate these changes quite poignantly.

The first is with Marty. The book on Marty, throughout the entire life of the season, has been that he’s not the best detective; that he is smart, and could be a great detective if he had a different psychological constitution, but that he all too often succumbs to his vices and lets things fall to the wayside (his family, his smarts, his temper). Marty’s always had the potential to be a great detective, though, which is what makes it so poignant when he makes the breakthrough in the case—the green paint on the house—, noticing a detail so obscure that even Super Detective Rust Cohle can’t muster up anything to say other than, “Fuuuuuuck you.” Marty ends up doing detective work that even Cohle can only stand and admire, detective work that 1995 Marty wouldn’t have or couldn’t have done.

The second is with Rust. This one’s fairly obvious. The show had been gradually building to big changes in Rust’s character over the last two episodes, and the final scene perfectly shows the viewer how those changes were cemented in Rust. Here’s a man who has spent a decade and a half believing that everything is meaningless, that human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution, that time is a flat circle…then that man nearly dies and he feels the warmth of God and the presence of his dead daughter and father in a near-death experience. This might not work so well if the viewer wasn’t already seeing changes in Rust in the way he deals with and talks to Marty, but when he breaks down crying, it’s not because he’s been wrong about everything he’s ever believed. He breaks down crying because it’s all about the grief he feels over his dead daughter, and it’s always been about that grief. What’s been buried under Rust’s nihilism for a long, long time is his deep, deep love for his daughter; the nihilism is just a coping mechanism, and it takes going to the brink of death for Rust to realize that his love for his daughter was what permutated everything for him. The things Rust has been through, including nearly dying, are liable to change a man, and I think they certainly changed Rust, which makes it devastatingly beautiful when Rust argues to Marty that “the light’s winning.” Compare that with the nihilistic grandstanding Rust engages in in the first episode; here’s a display of unfiltered optimism from a character who has been loudly, stubbornly, vehemently nihilistic for a long, long time.

This change that Rust goes through–along with the aforementioned changes Marty goes through from episode one to the finale–, finally realizing that the important people in his life like Marty and his dead daughter are why life matters, ARE the arc of True Detective. The greatest accomplishment of this show’s instant-classic of a first season is the portrayal of Rust Cohle’s journey from cold-hearded nihilist to a man who can’t help but nod at the interconnectedness of humanity, that we live this life for the ones we love. This show is and always has been about these two characters, and if the vast ideological and personal changes these two men go through, their going through hell and back to realize how damn important they are to each other and how much they love each other…if that’s not satisfying enough, if that’s not enough of a “twist,” well then you were just watching the show the wrong damn way. It may’ve been more satisfying to the part in all of us that craves clean resolution to see Rust and Marty take down the Tuttles and pull the curtain back on the entire cult and resulting cover-up, but as Marty eloquently says to Rust in the hospital: “We ain’t gonna get ‘em all. That ain’t what kind of world this is. But we got ours.” So did we.

Posted in Essays | Tagged , |

This Week In Bleep-Bloops: 2/3/14

Actress, UK producer Darren Cunningham, rarely does interviews, seemingly more comfortable laying in the shadows just outside notice. His reticence with reporters is somewhere in between Burial’s total reclusiveness and Zomby’s twitter brusqueness. However Cunningham did step out to give some context for his new record, Ghettoville, in an interview with Pitchfork this week, “I wanted this record to sound brittle, as if you were an addict and you feel like the world is crumbling around you.” The early word on Ghettoville was that it was a sequel to his first record, 2008’s Hazyville, but whereas that record sounded fully formed, Ghettoville is falling apart, it’s edges less defined, blurring from one sketch into the next. I’ve been listening to this walking around lately, insulated by layers of cloth and sonics, the lurching dub-techno of “Grey Over Blue” and “Skyline” matching the moon terrain of my own frozen city. There’s a certain beauty to the determined ugliness of Actress’ palette that fits this winter’s failure to thaw, a kinship in brutality. Actress has stated Ghettoville will be his last record; and while he certainly could be taking the piss, it sounds like the collapse of something.

Continue reading

Posted in Lists | Tagged , , , |

Recap: 2014 Grammy Awards Live Blog

Update 2: We’ve finished our live blog, but you can still read all our witty insights right here.  Start from the bottom and work your way up!

Update: We’ve started our 2014 Grammy live blog.  Follow our commentary from the bottom up, as we discuss what’s in store for tonight and recap the pre-awards.

 

This Sunday, Jan. 26, please join Tom Lundregan and I at Tactile Tracks as we provide live coverage of the 2014 Grammy Awards. Our amateur commentary will begin at 7:30 pm ET with a half-hour recap of the nominations (and a little red carpet gawking). This year’s awards telecast, beginning at 8 pm on CBS, will feature nearly a dozen performances including: Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr; Daft Punk with Nile Rodgers; Robin Thicke and Chicago (seriously); Katy Perry; and will conclude with a collaboration by Nine Inch Nails, Queens Of The Stone Age, Dave Grohl, and Lindsey Buckingham. Also, Lorde will probably battle a dragon or something.

In between performances, Tom and I will breakdown this year’s award snubs and surprises. Can Daft Punk upset Macklemore for Album of Year? Why was Justin Timberlake shut out of the major award nominations? Will Lorde win multiple Grammys but not the award for Best New Artist? How many of my predictions did I get correct? And why on earth was “Roar” nominated for anything?

Let’s find out together, shall we?

For nominee information, check out Grammy.com/nominees

daft-punk-2013-608x398

Posted in Album Reviews, Concert Reviews, News | 2 Comments »

Hip-Hop Time Capsule

Hip-Hop Time Capsule

T

he main criticism I’ve seen of A$AP Rocky’s “Fashion Killa” is the lack of “true” lyrical dexterity; the blossoming Harlem superstar is essentially name-dropping designers in a possible attempt to fill out his closet. Critical purists insist that hip-hop must mean something significant, culturally, but for some reason tend to discredit artists referencing the culture that they represent. So to some critics, Rocky’s laundry list (no pun intended) of designers isn’t to be taken as serious art.  However, the very next track on his breakout album, “Phoenix,” has lines that chronicle the struggles his family faced growing up.  These lyrics admittedly paint a more vivid picture of who he is as an artist, and consequently “Phoenix”doesn’t get the backlash of “Fashion Killa.” This is a problem in the hip-hop world, because while a rapper building up his or her personal mythos is important in telling the listener who they are, the cultural mile-markers that references laden in the lyrics represent are important in telling the listener who we are.

What Rocky is doing isn’t new. In fact, the concept of encapsulating American culture through hip-hop lyrics goes all the way back to its roots; in 1979, The Fatback Band referenced Burger King in what is considered by many to be the first hip-hop single (“King Tim III”) while the Sugar Hill Gang were touting their Lincoln and Cadillac town cars and Holiday Inn in “Rapper’s Delight.” These are all things that we still can choose to enjoy thirty-five years later, and the motivation of those emcees was probably far from providing future listeners with a cultural time-capsule of sorts in the first place, but that tangential benefit is hard to ignore. While some parts of American culture withstand generational gaps, the anachronisms in the lyrics capture the nuances of a particular time more than anything else. As we look back at the history of hip-hop, we can find interesting common threads that provide snapshots of trends, cultural events, and what life was like around the time of the songs’ releases. For that reason, the life of America that is forever preserved inside of hip-hop lyrics is as important of a cultural history lesson as any.

Continue reading

Posted in Essays | Tagged , , , , , |

The Problem With Being Critical

Deerhunter is possibly my favorite rock and roll band currently working today.  Every time I’ve seen them I’ve been filled with a complete sense of awe at how they can recreate the joy, confusion, mystery and anarchy of both their albums and the best rock and roll on stage while projecting their own unique personality.  I’ve seen Bradford Cox wear a dress and spit blood, drone on a chord for 4+ minutes and be the most charismatic front man you could ever ask for.  The real reason that I’m so inspired by the band, however, is that they write great music that consistently connects with me at a very deep and human level.  So, when I listened to Monomania for the first time and was left a bit cold, I was shocked.  “Where,” I wondered, “is that mysterious sense of space, the ennui embedded into what could otherwise be a ’50s pop song?  Where is that special Deerhunter punch I’m so used to?”

Continue reading

Posted in Essays | Tagged , , | Leave a comment »

The Year In Review: Honorable Mentions Of 2013

For all the music that we were able to cover over the past week, there are still so many things that we haven’t touched on. We want our year-end coverage to be as thorough as possible, so we decided to leave you with one last look at what really loved this year. Each staff member has such different listening habits that, though the top 100 tracks list and top 50 albums list are indicative of our commonalities, so many of our individual favorites got left out in the cold when those lists were compiled.

We hope to leave you for the year with a look at 2013 through more personal lenses, as we take you through the records and songs that didn’t make the big lists and important musical moments that affected us as individuals this year. We wholeheartedly thank you for sticking around through a late-year lull in coverage, and we are devoting ourselves to putting forth quality content on a more consistent basis in 2014. We hope you have enjoyed our end-of-the-year coverage of the music world, and look forward to guiding you through another.

Continue reading

Posted in Lists | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment »

The Year In Review: Top 50 Albums Of 2013

Top 50 Albums Of 2013

We understand that by this point in the year, you have probably seen just about every solid-to-great record pop up on some sort of year-end list. We also understand that December can be tiring as social media surges with hundreds of reasons why this list is wrong, or that site is idiotic. Furthermore, we understand all too well that the list you see below doesn’t really matter in pretty much any sense. But we want you to understand that we don’t care. We love making it. It’s flawed, your favorite band might not be on it, but it’s a representation of what our staff loved this year, and we had fun putting it together.

A blog-wide top fifty albums list always seems to come to you as if descended down from the HTML that makes up the blog itself, with no real explanation of how this group of albums seems to have become ordered in this very particular way, so we like to try to provide you with a little background as to how the ballots fell in line and why things are the way they are. Each staff member who submits a year-end ballot has their list considered with equal weight, with their top three records more heavily weighted than the rest. Any time an album is listed by another staffer, that album sees its score grow more weighted as well. Everything below is listed from records that received the most “points” to those who received the fewest. Pretty simple, and fair.

Some of the lists in years past have seen cases where not a single album was unanimously voted into every staff member’s top fifty, but that is not the case this year, despite the fact that there were a total of 214 albums submitted. Actually, the #1 and #2 records both were unanimously chosen, with our #1 record appearing in the top ten on 9 of 10 lists. Every record you see below was voted at least three times by our ten voters, and there were actually (sadly) records that voters had as their personal #1 that didn’t make the overall cut. There was a lot of lobbying, ridicule, guilting one another into including records, but this is where we ultimately stand at year’s end. There isn’t a lot of science behind this; these are simply our favorite fifty records, as a staff.

Continue reading

Posted in Lists | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment »

The Year In Review: Top 100 Tracks Of 2013

Top 100 Tracks Of 2013

Compiling our favorite tracks of the year is simultaneously painstaking and ridiculously fun. When you think about a full-length record, you have to consider the work as singular, though it’s made up of all these working parts that make the singular statement effective or ineffective. Things are broken down to such a molecular level when looking at songs released in a given year; it’s a singular statement that is actually a singular statement, rather than the sum of its parts. Sure, many factors can make a song great, from technicality and performance to lyrical subject matter to actual commercial appeal. We have done our best to quantify those factors into a cohesive list that is representative of what songs were great this year, or perhaps more specifically, what songs played the biggest roles in our years as a collection of writers.

The second year of compiling this list wasn’t any easier than the first. There’s a reason we have all gotten together to work on this blog — we all share pretty common interests when it comes to pop culture. However, the place where all of the differences really come to light is when we submit our individual favorite tracks list. A total of 286 tracks were ultimately submitted by 10 staffers, spanning every inch of the genre spectrum. The list you see below is the best representation of the cross-section of our tastes, with a lot of individual touches thrown in from each staff member.

As the track list we pull together is such a broad view of the music of 2013, there wasn’t a track voted by all staff-members, but the top two tracks reached the most consensus with all but two members voting them in. Despite the fact that Kendrick Lamar didn’t release a record this year, he appears on our list three times, due to his strong guest spots on other artist’s songs. They have earned him a repeat Tactile Tracks Top 100 Tracks MVP (an honor which will surely bring him far greater joy than his Grammy nominations). Seven of the ten tracks from Kanye West’s Yeezus were submitted, and similarly, four of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories cuts were up for discussion. Ultimately, what you end up with is (what we feel) a terrific representation of the tracks that shaped the sound of 2013, and those that stand the best chance of remaining staples in playlist rotations for years to come.

Continue reading

Posted in Lists | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment »

The Year In Review: Best Hip-Hop Of 2013

TIM FENTON: Rather than have a knife-fight over which one of us gets to write the Tactile Tracks 2013 Hip Hop Year In Review Top 20 Spectacular, Brendan and I (at the urging of our esteemed editor) opted to combine our powers and do this thing fantasy draft style via e-mail. For those of you unaware with the concept of fantasy sports, I’ll break this down for you, real quick: basically, we’re each going to take turns selecting albums for our respective “teams” – being the generous human being that I am, Brendan will go first, then I’ll make a pick, and so on. We’ll do two rounds, with ten picks in each round, and the draft order will swap at the turn (i.e. I’ll have the 10th overall pick, followed by the 11th overall pick, aka the first pick of the second round). Along the way, we’ll debate and discuss the relative merits of each album, and hopefully come up with a new and entertaining way to discuss this year’s notable hip hop releases.

Now, some ground rules – any album which made Tactile Tracks’ Top-50 Albums of 2013 list is automatically ineligible. This means that Yeezus, My Name Is My Name, Czarface, Run the Jewels, and whatever Chance the Rapper’s terrible album was called are all out of the picture. This restriction notwithstanding, Brendan, I understand that you wouldn’t have picked Kanye’s latest as your #1 hip hop release even if it were eligible. You are officially on the clock, and I’m interested in your Yeezus thoughts.

BRENDAN FLANAGAN: Thanks, Tim, and you leave Chance alone. I mean, did you see him cover “Fix You?” And making the Billboard Top 100 off of bootleg sales of an album you’re giving away for free is no small feat. As for Yeezy, I had him as my #1 album on my Tactile Tracks albums list. Yeezus was a masterpiece, but I think we’re at a point where we don’t have to force a square peg into a round hole anymore. Kanye is the biggest pop artist in music, a performer who makes #1 records while deliberately trying to diverge from the norms of hip-hop. Every time the throngs of rappers emulating him inch closer, Kanye surges away from them and I think someone with that unrelenting desire to be seen as a separate entity has earned that right.

On to the draft!

Continue reading

Posted in Lists | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment »