Röyksopp and Robyn: A Mini-Album Done Right

I first heard the seemingly simple title track from Röyksopp’s and Robyn’s new mini-album, Do It Again, in a YouTube lyric videoFirst impression: Robyn had accomplished this sound with more panache on her various 2010 Body Talk releases. Bored, I decided to read the lyrics: “One more time / Let's do it again / Blow my mind / Do it again.” 

Now I’m all for minimalism, but this was reminding me of the slight (and slightly embarrassing) Body Talk Pt. 3 closer, “Stars 4-Ever.” I skipped onto a related video: a snippet from another track, “Monument.”

Sure, the chillout sound was new coming from Robyn (it’s more Röyksopp’s domain), but this was just a minute-and-a-half of ponderous repetition. These videos were meant to sell me on the album?

So I gave up on Do It Again. It was only when I recently overheard my brother listening to “Monument” – which was apparently 10 minutes long in full – that I was surprised by the gentlest sax solo I've ever heard. I was smitten.

You can hear a 7:48 edit of “Monument” below.

I listened to the album again – a real listen this time.

Unlike Robyn's previous scattershot mini-albums, the 35-minute Röyksopp team-up turns out to be a complete work. The title track's electropop is bookended by the midtempo "Sayit" (a more carnal relationship-with-a-robot track than Robyn’s previous bubblegum “Fembot”) and "Every Little Thing" (which, save for some dark synths, goes down a bit too easy). These midtempo tracks are in turn bookended by extended sax-infused chillouts (the closer, "Inside the Idle Hour Club," is penned by Röyksopp alone). 

But it’s not just the album's tempo that rises, peaks, and then descends. It’s the mood. The first half builds to the ecstatic "Do It Again," and then things go sour in that song's bridge. The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it bridge (“We should not be friends / We'll just do it again / If you stay around / We'll just do it again”) adds considerable subtext to otherwise generic raunchy lyrics.

In the end, that bridge becomes the point on which the album's mood pivots, creating a complex bittersweetness - or is that sweetbitterness? - to rival Robyn's best. I’m all for minimalism, and the truly collaborative Do It Again does so much with so little.

What Goes Around Comes Around: The Moral Implications of Spider-Man's Origin Stories

The so-called origin stories of superheroes like Spider-Man and Batman have been burnt into the public consciousness. Some might call them our modern-day myths. Ask someone on the street what Spider-Man’s origin story is and he or she might reply, “Spider-Man lets a burglar escape and then the burglar kills his Uncle Ben.” The story is that simple.

But it's also far more complicated. 

Amazing Fantasy #15
The first Spider-Man story appeared in 1962 in the pages of Amazing Fantasy #15 and, unlike Batman’s first appearance, served as the origin story for its respective superhero. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko told a tale of a teenager who gains power, uses it for himself only, and then suffers for his selfishness.

Revolving around the figures of Peter Parker, Uncle Ben, and the Burglar, the narrative would inform every subsequent appearance of the character. Indeed, one could say the 1962 yarn wasn’t only the first Spider-Man story, but also the Spider-Man story.

Despite the definitive stature of Lee's and Ditko’s original comic-cum-moral-tale, Spider-Man’s lore has undergone several permutations. The narrative has mutated each time it’s been passed down in comic books, TV shows, and movies. Even Lee got little details wrong when he wrote flashbacks to the story – a story where the devil is definitely in the details.

A question arises: do the most well-known retellings of Spider-Man’s origin story – the blockbuster films Spider-Man (Sam Raimi, 2002) and The Amazing Spider-Man (Marc Webb, 2012) – communicate the same moral message as the 1962 narrative?

For this fan, the answer is no. I will compare and contrast four important story beats within the original narrative and within each of the films. Then, I will paint a picture of each telling’s wider moral message and give my thoughts on the value of that message.

13 Angry Men

I can't get enough of crime dramas, especially when there's a killer involved. So a few weeks ago, I sat down to watch the 1957 film 12 Angry Men for the first time. It was pretty good, but as a whodunit, it just wasn't satisfying. I mean, the film ends after Juror #8 convinces the jury to find the accused 18-year-old boy not guilty of murdering his own father. The boy walks away scot-free. And we never find out who did the murder.

It's like they forgot to include the ending.

So I was pleased to learn about the obscure direct-to-video sequel 13 Angry Men, released in 1993. One review I read said it was like Silence of the Lambs meets Psycho, and another review said it was "psychologically taut."

I bought a VHS copy on eBay for $3.24, hooked up the old VCR, and waited for the tape to arrive in the mail. When it finally did, the box was all in Russian. I was worried the film would be dubbed, but I popped in the tape, and thank my lucky stars - the dialogue was in English.

Now this was more like it. Watching the original, I had waited on the edge of my seat to find out who the murderer was. Now I would finally have the answers to all my questions. Who killed the father? Was it one of the jury members? Which jury member?

The accused boy in the original 1957 film

13 Angry Men sees a mysterious man picking off the jurors one by one in different ways. When you watch the movie, you will say: who knew there were so many ways people could get murdered? Juror #8 (originally played by Henry Fonda) joins a team of FBI profilers tracking the serial killer, who hides his face under a sinister Mexican luchador mask.

None of the original actors return, but this is a minor complaint given the richness of the story. And unlike the boring black-and-white original, 13 Angry Men is in colour.

Now this is where it gets good. Warning: massive spoilers ahead.

The masked serial killer taunts Juror #8 by saving him for last, then corners and tortures him. Guess what we find out? Juror #8 was the one who murdered the 18-year-old boy's father in 1957! It's so crazy. I love psychology, and the twist makes perfect sense when you stop and think about it.

Then the masked killer finally reveals himself. It is the accused 18-year-old boy all grown up. Let's just say he's a very angry man.

And he wants revenge.

This is the rare sequel that gives you that little extra to chew on. The film really lets you inside Juror #8's mind and makes you question the nature of right and wrong. 13 Angry Men is definitely worth checking out if you can find a copy.