Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tally all the Things that You Broke - Parquet Courts Does it Again

I told myself I wasn’t going to review a band more than once but Parquet Courts is quickly shaping up to be one of my favorites and there new EP Tally All the Things that You Broke is just as crazy, weird, and incredible as their debut album Light Up Gold.  With five songs that provide us with what the band deems five self-evident truths outlined on the album cover, Parquet Courts take on everything from heartbreak to rebellion on this record.   Continuing with their same post-punk, 90’s noise-rock sound I couldn’t be happier as it seems that most bands today put out an innovative and creative debut only to alter their sound in the hopes of a major label deal.  Parquet Courts is the polar opposite.  The Brooklyn boys have delivered with the creative lyrics of “You’ve Got me Wonderin Now” that question the singers beliefs about heartburn and the blues and the Beastie Boys inspired, nearly 8 minute closing track “He’s Seeing Paths” which resembles Beck’s “Loser” in a really good way.  Between the toy whistle in the background of several songs and the Grateful Dead style “jam sessions” in the longer tracks, the songs on Tally All the Things that You Broke will definitely make you say….what??  But that’s what makes Parquet Courts so fantastic because a band hasn’t made me say that in quite some time.  The band chants “The more you use it, the more it works” in the middle track “The More it Works” which is starting to exemplify Parquet Courts because the more I hear their songs, the more I start to realize how much it does indeed work, and work well.

Man of Steel - Best Superhero Movie Since The Dark Knight

Man of Steel was possibly the best superhero movie I’ve ever seen, and that’s because in many ways it wasn’t a superhero movie.  Directed by Zack Snyder, creative genius behind 300 and Watchmen two of the greatest graphic novel film adaptations ever made, the film focused heavily on Superman’s history which gave the viewer not only Superman’s back story but also allowed for the significance of his arrival on Earth to be all the more compelling.  Henry Cavil is fantastic as Kal-El, the first natural born baby on Krypton in centuries.  His father, masterfully played by Russell Crowe, rescues his newborn son from the destruction of the planet and the grasp of the evil General Zod played by Michael Shannon whose goal is the survival of their race at any cost.  Arriving on Earth, Kal-El is discovered by a farmer and his wife (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) who understand the significance of such a discovery.  Instilling in their son the utmost belief that he is special the parents make him understand that one day, when the world finds out of his existence, it will change humanity forever.  Stunning visual effects and intense action sequences make Man of Steel an exceptional science fiction film and this overall theme of the discovery of life in the universe which is at the heart of the Superman story is incredibly well done.  People overlook the fact that the existence of Superman means the existence of not only intelligent life, but highly advanced life in the universe besides us, a realization that will have a profound effect on humanity as a whole.  With the arrival of General Zod on Earth, Superman must wait for the appropriate time to not only save the planet, but reveal his existence to the human race changing not only his life but everyone’s forever.  The nearly 3 hour run time is necessary with a film like this which masterfully crams in an incredible amount of storyline and character development.  Jumping back and forth between  Clark Kent as a young man, searching the world for answers and himself as a young boy coming to terms with his powers, the film paints a brilliant picture of the man of steel.  Overall, the movie was a remarkable achievement and not only stands up alongside The Dark Knight as one of the best superhero movies ever but also stands alone as one of the best sci-fi movies I’ve ever seen.  I wish I had more thumbs, because “two thumbs up” is an undeserved understatement.  I cannot WAIT for the sequel.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Staff Pick - Leaders of the Free World by Elbow

Kirsten Boothman, self-proclaimed New Wave aficionado and lover of R.E.M. and Coldplay chose this week’s staff pick, a band who opened for Coldplay on their last tour.  Elbow are a British electro-pop alt rock band formed in 1990.  Sounding like a cross between Coldplay and James Mercer’s new two piece Broken Bells, Kirsten recommended their third album Leaders of the Free World released in 2005.  Overall, the album was great with some tracks standing out as downright phenomenal including the single “Forget Myself” (my personal favorite) and the lead in track “Station Approach” which builds and builds until breaking into a poppy alternative sound very reminiscent of early Coldplay infused with some Oasis sounding guitar riffs.  Many tracks have a very haunting and melodic sound with some backing piano and muted acoustic accompaniment such as “Picky Bugger” and “An Imagined Affair” which could be off the Shins debut album Oh Inverted World.  Still others have some raging alt guitar such as “Mexican Standoff”, by far the heaviest on the record.  At the same time, the second single, title track “Leaders of the Free World” sounds like it should be a bonus track on Broken Bell’s debut eponymous album.  Elbow in many ways continues in the vein of Brit-pop groups like Oasis and Blur with a much softer feel and tracks which sound like classical infused British New Wave.  All in all, the album was really fun and kept me guessing which for me is crucial when listening to a new group.  If I lose interest after the first few tracks it’s difficult to keep going all the way through the album but I didn’t have any issue listening to Leaders of the Free World in its entirety.  The songs differ enough from track to track to keep you wanting more.  I’ll be checking out Elbow’s other albums soon as the band is perfect for this time of year.  The soft, alt-acoustic ballads and poppy electro infused guitar songs are great for sunny fall drives.  Most definitely a great pick.

The Purge - Would You Murder Someone if it was Legal?

The Purge was an exciting thriller, but overall could have been significantly better.  This Sci-Fi thriller takes place in the year 2022 (frighteningly not too long in our future) and centers around the annual “Purge” a 12 hour lawless period in which all crime is legal including murder and all emergency services are suspended until the following morning.  Ethan Hawke plays James Sandin, a wealthy salesman who deals in sub-par security systems designed to help people survive the Purge.  After his son allows a homeless man who is under attack to enter the safety of their home the family is faced with a difficult moral decision.  Surrounded by the man’s attackers, a group of rich, young sociopaths, the family must decide whether to return the man to the angry mob for execution or to harbor him inside their home and risk the entry of the killers and the slaughter of everyone inside.  This concept I felt was really strong; the idea of having to choose to either save someone less fortunate than yourself, or sacrifice him to keep your family safe.  In fact one of the major issues people have with the Purge is that despite crime and violence being at an all-time low, many claim the 12 hour killing fest is selectively getting rid of the less fortunate and creating an America full of affluent people.  Needless to say, a large amount of violence against your fellow man is the focal point of this film making both the Sandin family and the viewer decide what they would do if faced with such a gruesome situation.  Overall, the film was entertaining to watch despite the poor acting which is rampant throughout.  I just think that the concept was so much stronger than the final product and that is unfortunate.  I would have loved for the film to be more drama-oriented and less of a thriller/horror movie, but with a sequel already in the works, maybe I’ll get my wish.  That being said, it leaves us all with the ultimate question: would you murder someone if it was legal?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Staff Pick - Approaching Normal by Blue October

Blue October is a band that took me straight back to middle school.  This alt rock outfit was picked by fellow DFL librarian Karen Hahn who heard one of the tracks on the television show NCIS and really liked it.  She chose their fifth studio album Approaching Normal, released in 2009, and I was really impressed.  Formed in 1995, the band sounds very much like millennial alternative bands like Lifehouse, Tonic or Creed with a bit more of an edge (and less religion).  Their lead singer Justin Furstenfeld is all over the vocal spectrum at times sounding like Chris Martin on tracks like “Been Down” and more like Frank Turner on songs like “Kangaroo Cry” (one of my favorites on the album).  Overall the tone of the album is very negative with most of the songs dealing with subjects like kidnapping, marital affairs, death, and depression giving the band an almost emo sound, but it works well with the variety of instruments and the sporadic tempo changes which make the album really fun to listen to.  The only real positive song on the album is “Blue Skies” which is a fun, poppy track which sounds like a more rock oriented Guster.  Of the two singles released off the album my favorite is “Say It” which received pretty heavy radio play at the end of the 00’s.  The song has a crazy catchy chorus which gets stuck in your head for hours (which can be a good or bad thing).  The other single “Dirt Room” is a great song albeit rather macabre focusing on the abduction of a person and their subsequent imprisonment in a hand dug dirt room.  The strangest track, but also one of the best on the record was “The End” a nearly five minute tune with an incredibly haunting tone which sounds like someone reciting a poem by Edgar Allen Poe.  The track has my favorite chorus and is the heaviest on the record dealing with the emotions of someone walking in on their wife having an affair.  Overall, Karen’s pick was top notch.  An album and band that is diverse in both their choice of instruments and their vocals which makes for songs that are really only connected by their subject matter.  Definitely check out more by Blue October.  I know I will as several of the songs off Approaching Normal have already made their way on to my playlists.