DID YOU READ

The Civil Wars Quietly Storm The IFC Crossroads House

The Civil Wars Quietly Storm The IFC Crossroads House (photo)

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At first glance, you would expect Joy Williams and John Paul White to be a source of stone cold severity. There doesn’t seem to be room for play in a duo that names themselves The Civil Wars — she, dressed in all black, lace up to her collarbone; he, in a staid gray suit, cinched with a gentleman’s bow tie. But the playfulness beneath the surface is what makes The Civil Wars’ often melancholy songs of love so resonant, and their live show, performed last night at the IFC Crossroads House, ultimately mesmerizing.

In the tradition of duos like June Carter and Johnny Cash, Williams and White have an on-stage rapport there that belies a certain degree of intimacy and comfort; though like another dark-haired, country-leaning duo of red and white sartorial splendor, no they are not married, and yes, they know you’re wondering. Williams and White use this intrigue to their dramatic advantage, teasing and taunting each other during their performances. She smooths his hair and straightens his collar. They throw their heads back in sync, holding notes longer than they should be held, shooting each other brazen, toothy smiles and side glances. There is a chemistry at work — a twinkle. It may not be love, but it’s close enough for the audience to get giddy off the high.

Williams hails from Northern California, and White from Alabama, but Nashville is where they came together, and their songs are born of the spare clarity of the country music town’s influence. The duo first gained recognition when the title track off their “Poison and Wine” EP soundtracked the final minutes of an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy,” but it is clear their songs are borne of the subtlety and splendor that catapults them beyond the realm of momentary TV soundtrack stardom. And though “Poison and Wine” is a particularly somber sampling of their sound, the duo is just as magnificent when they’re hip swinging and foot stomping, their vocals leaping after each other, as they do on the title track of their first full-length album, “Barton Hollow,” which was produced, along with their EP, by Grammy Award-winner, Charlie Peacock.

Both Williams and White wield wildly malleable voices that swing from brassy twang, to coy, breathy whisper, to bold bell-like clarity. Harmony is their entrée offering, but most interesting is how they put the meal together, beginning in glorious discord, and sliding their voices, vibratos mystifyingly synchronized, to harmonious resolution. To watch this kind of congruence manifest itself in front of you, over and over again, is as mind-blowing as watching a magician disappear a body from a hollow box. You just keep thinking, “How do they do it?”

Perhaps the most endearing songs in the hour-long set were their covers, which included a chilling version of The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Disarm,” and a slow, seductive interpretation of “Billie Jean,” Williams playing the seductress to White’s pleading narrator. Even when tackling other musicians’ material, The Civil Wars can read as somber, serious, pensive – but never without a bit of light shining through. Towards the close of the set, the duo also took on “You Are My Sunshine,” which, we all discovered, is one of the state songs of Louisiana. “The verses are actually quite sad,” Williams said of the tune with the sunny title. “Which fits us perfectly,” said White, matching his partner’s warning with its complementary humorous note, and encapsulating the harmony of this special pair.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.