Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2015

The inductees have been announced and it's another big year for music in all genres.  Amazingly, So-Cal punks Green Day have been chosen in their first year of eligibility sparking furious debates all over the interwebs.  Also selected were Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (how she never made it in before now is beyond me) and blues rock aficionados Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble.  The late great Lou Reed will also be inducted.  Already in as a member of the Velvet Underground, it's sad that Reed didn't make it long enough to see his solo work recognized in such a way.  Several artists which I'm sure many fans believed were shoe-ins were left off the list dashing their hopes until next year.  Bands that missed the mark include The Smiths, Nine Inch Nails, and N.W.A.  Many have argued that bands as influential to modern music as The Smiths should have been picked long before Billy Joe and co. but clearly those people have never heard "Jesus of Suburbia" or "Longview".

Tracks from Today's Playlist

1. Lights Out - Screaming Females
2. Medical Envy - NICE GUYS
3. Every Day is a Winding Road - Sheryl Crow
4. Magnets Pt. 1 - Slothrust
5. Angel's Wings - Social Distortion
6. Price to Pay - Miami Dorritos
7. Fresh Pond - Krill
8. Nic Fit - Sonic Youth (Untouchables cover)
9. In the Meantime - Spacehog
10. In the Evening - Led Zeppelin

The Giver: Finally a YA Novel Adaptation I Can Get Behind

For some reason I missed out on The Giver by Lois Lowry.  It seems everyone read that book besides me.  I can remember younger grades reading it in high school so perhaps I missed the mark by a couple years.  The point is that I went into the film with clear eyes and very little idea of what the concept was besides the fact that it was another teen dystopian flick to throw on top of the pile.  2014 has been the year of the YA novel adaptation and The Giver directed by Phillip Noyce is a good way to round out such a year.  With less of a focus on romance, the film takes on larger, more existential questions in that the society in which protagonist Jonas lives is devoid of color and feeling.  In the year 2048, society has rebuilt itself after a devastating event which we know nothing about.  Now, human beings live high on a plateau where their self-sustaining society survives by eliminating all feelings like anger, jealously, and other negative actions and emotions as well as love, joy and hope.  In every sense of the word, their world is a utopia which basically survives on the idea that no one knows any different.  Everyone is equal and is assigned a job for life upon turning 18.  When young Jonas is left out of the selection process it is revealed that he has been chosen to be the new “Receiver”, the person charged with experiencing the past and history of the human race so that he may preserve it for future generations.  Jonas is sent to the edge of the community to work with the Giver, the old Receiver who is tasked with teaching Jonas about what it truly means to be human.  While certain things inspire Jonas like hope and love, others like war, violence, and fear confuse and frighten him.  As Jonas’ training progresses he starts to discover the lies underneath the surface of their picturesque society and seeks a way to change everything.  The Giver was a success in that it showcases what it means to be human.  Part of what makes us who we are is our ability to feel and though that sometimes leads to horrific outcomes, life just isn’t worth living without it.  In the end, love is the most important thing and once someone experiences that, there truly is no going back.  Managing to focus on love without getting too heavily into romance is difficult, especially in the YA genre and yet The Giver manages to draw a distinction between the two which I was overjoyed to see.  In this way the film was significantly better than other adaptations this year like The Mortal Instruments and Divergent whose plots center almost entirely on the young female protagonist’s new love interest.  Overall, I would recommend the film.  It’s a decent sci-fi story and has some great actors including Jeff Bridges as the Giver and Meryl Streep as the stone faced Chief Elder; definitely a good way to round out the years other dystopian flops.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My Year End List - Top 10 Albums of 2014

Every single publication that has anything to do with music in any capacity is currently partaking in the time honored tradition of the Year End list right now so I figured I’d jump on the proverbial bandwagon and put together my own.  Year End lists are interesting because so many people have so many opinions and everywhere you look someone has picked something different for their number one album or song of the year.  AV Club picked Angel Olsen’s Burn Your Fire for No Witness as their number one record of the year and it didn’t even make Rolling Stone’s Top 40 Albums (thought their list is questionable at best considering their pick for number one was U2’s “excuse me while I shove this down your throat” Songs of Innocence LP).  The point is that everyone has their own picks and these happen to be mine.

10. Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright in the End: Weezer has had a tough few years but those pent up anxieties and emotions present themselves in a subtle way on their new album.  Frontman Rivers Cuomo manages to walk the line between sincerity and fun, catchy tunes while the rest of the band follows suit returning to Weezer’s geeky, alt rock roots making longtime fans of The Blue Album happy for the first time in a while.
9. White Lung – Deep Fantasy: Lead singer Mish Way delivers howling squeals and guttural belts fronting the visceral hardcore band White Lung whose third LP this year blended classic thrash with modern punk to create an adrenaline fueled thrill ride which I found myself getting in line to listen to over and over and over again.
8. Eagulls – Eagulls: The debut eponymous LP from the UK’s Eagulls proved that underground 80’s alternative is alive and well.  Each of the albums tracks oozes with manic depressive earnestness and creates a haunting atmosphere which harkens back to early Echo and the Bunnymen with a hardcore punk twist.
7. Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal: Brooklyn’s Parquet Courts have been busy the last 18 months churning out several releases the most recent being Sunbathing Animal .  The albums 46 minutes of punk charged art rock see the band pushing the limits of the sound nurtured on last year’s Light Up Gold.  With several songs devolving into Sonic Youth-esqe fuzzy guitar solos, the band has clearly demonstrated that while maintaining a cohesive style, they’re not afraid to take things to the next level.
6. Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else: Speaking of bands that push the boundaries, Cleveland’s Cloud Nothings released a phenomenal follow up to 2012’s Attack on Memory which proves that lead singer Dylan Baldi who started the band as a solo project in his bedroom has graduated to full on rock star status.  The albums tracks bring the same alternative intensity as their previous release while still showing evolutionary growth.
5. Bob Mould – Beauty and Ruin: The former Husker Du frontman created one of the best rock and roll records of year…hands down.  The album is full of thunderous drums, heavy hooks, raging riffs, and punky beats ranging from radio friendly sing-alongs to full on alternative hailstorms.  There’s a reason this album made my list and not the Foo’s Sonic Highways
4. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire for No Witness: AV Club’s pick for album of the year, Angel Olsen’s haunting and mesmerizing LP is an astounding piece of modern alterna-folk.  Drawing from an eclectic mix of influences the songs offer up Olsen’s unique and powerful voice as the focal point crafting dreamy, simple, yet heavy compositions around her incredible lyrics.  This album is A MUST for any year end list.
3. Alvvays – Alvvays: Canadian dream pop band Alvvays put together an out of this world debut album this year utilizing ethereal vocals, simple and catchy drumbeats and poppy hooks which when combined create the best “indie” album of the year.  Sounding like a softer version of the Dum Dum Girls with wayyyy less black leather, Alvvays has set the bar high for their follow up but if it’s half as good as their debut, it’ll still be a chart topper in my book.
2. Ought – More Than Any Other Day: WOW is the best way to describe Ought.  The third Canadian group on my list (way to go eh) this punk quartet is the only band to make my brow furrow this year, in a good way!  I was so confused when I first heard their album that I didn’t know whether to jump for joy or question humanity itself.  The albums songs combine the raw power of the Talking Heads with heavy guitars and CRAZY time signatures and tempo changes that both put you in a trance and make your heart explode.

1.  Tacocat – NVM:  My number one album of the year emerged like a brilliant ray of sunshine from the dreary, rain saturated forests of the Pacific Northwest.  Tacocat’s debut NVM has everything I’m looking for in an alternative rock record.  All the songs are superb combining lyrics that are lighthearted and funny on songs like “This is Anarchy” and perfect social commentary on tracks like “Hey Girl”.  The band rocks, in sound, subject matter, appearance, and attitude.  All the members are involved in side project’s one of which deserves an honorable mention on my list.  Bree McKenna’s band CHILDBIRTH also released a debut this year entitled It’s a Girl! which exemplifies what’s so great about punk rock.  The album is over in less than 15 minutes but in that short amount of time crafts a raw, lo-fi sound which is grittier and heavier than most other albums released this year across all genres, no ifs ands or buts about it. End of discussion.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Songs from this Morning

1. The Charles Mansion - Idiot Genes
2. Virtual Insanity - Jamiroquai
3. The Way - Fastball
4. Something Must Break - Jawbox
5. Nightmare - The Faith

Year End Lists Have Begun!!!

It's that time of year again folks.  Everyone is stuffed full of turkey and staring down the holiday season that lies before us.  Shopping, family, food, gift giving, just some of the many things that make this time of year so magical.  It's also the time that every musical blog, magazine, publication, or whatever begins the time honored tradition of the year end list.  Best Artists, Best Albums, Best Songs, Biggest Surprises, Best New Acts, I could go on and on.  In keeping with the spirit I've decided to put together my own, albeit much briefer Best Albums of 2014 list.  Look for it next week and in the meantime, check out Rolling Stone's list of the 50 Best Albums of 2014 below.

Rolling Stone's 50 Best Albums of 2014

Lone Survivor is an Emotional Roller Coaster

Lone Survivor was superbly well-acted and stunningly emotional.  Based on the amazing true story of Operation Red Wings, the film tells the story of a four man NAVY SEAL Recon team sent into the mountains of Afghanistan to track a known high level Taliban commander.  Though the mission starts out smoothly, poor communications equipment and a chance encounter quickly force the SEAL’s to adapt to a more hostile situation.  As the name implies, only a single SEAL manages to escape alive and his story is one of chance, determination, and a lot of luck.  The film defies most military movie conventions by offering up well thought out and realistic battle sequences seeing actors Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, and Ben Foster brilliantly executing their roles in a manner that would make any veteran proud.  With a focus on brotherhood and loyalty, the film focuses masterfully on the ability of such elite Special Forces to keep on going no matter what.  You don’t stop…ever.  They are trained to keep pushing the limits and keep moving forward and that is displayed expertly, particularly by Wahlberg and Foster.  In addition, the film manages to show the US’s dual reasons for the War in Afghanistan particularly well.  The team is there to track a known Taliban leader and enemy of the US but that is only half of the mission.  The Taliban is an extremely violent and oppressive organization abroad but even more so at home.  The film manages to simultaneously make you root for the SEAL’s while also showing the viewer that not all Afghanis are bad people.  Most are honorable, regular people trying to live their lives and resist a violent sect which has given the country a bad reputation.  In this way the movie manages to use this horrific mission which was ultimately a failure to represent a larger picture; to show the viewer not only why we are in this war but why it is worth fighting for.  One of Mark Wahlberg’s best roles in years Lone Survivor is more than just a fantastic military movie, it’s a fantastic film. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Songs from Today

1. Miserable - Lit
2. Today, More Than Any Other Day - Ought
3. Rapt - Karen O
4. On My Fingers - Iceage
5. Cleopatra - Weezer

Maleficent Is an Interesting Version of the Classic Fairy Tale

I have never seen Sleeping Beauty.  There it is I said it.  It was a Disney movie I never had any desire to watch and so when I brought home Maleficent staring Angelina Jolie I had little knowledge about the story besides the fact that Maleficent was the evil witch who put a spell on sleeping beauty.  As a result, I got to view the film with fresh eyes and found it to be an interesting take on the old fairy tale.  The focus is entirely on Maleficent as we learn about her backstory and magical home.  While princess Aurora is a character, she feels more like a side note.  A chapter in the story of Maleficent whose relationship with Aurora’s father King Stefan goes back farther than expected.  Perhaps the best aspect of the film is seeing a classic Disney villain portrayed as the heroine, villain and victim.  We sympathize with her and seeing the events unfold from her perspective allows the viewer to form different opinions about the original story.  All major characters are present including Prince Philip and the three fairies (though their names have been changed for some reason).  While the film has its dark moments, it’s overall an uplifting tale with a standard Disney happy ending which makes it enjoyable for both children and parents.  I was skeptical at first about Jolie who is so recognizable I thought it would take away from her performance.  While it was initially difficult to get past the fact that you’re staring at Angelina Jolie in a fancy costume, she eventually gets it right and you find yourself focused on the character and not her (something I find she has had difficulty with in past films).  I won’t give away too many aspects of the film beyond the core plot elements everyone is aware of because the areas where the story deviates are what make it such a unique adaptation.  I would love to see Disney continue in this vein and see other classic tales like Snow White told from the perspective of the villain.  It not only gives a different point of view but breathes new life into a timeless classic.

The Foo's Announce North American Tour Dates

The Foo Fighters have been busy this year. Their new album Sonic Highways is out now and in case you haven't heard anything about it, was recorded in eight different studios in eight different cities across the country.  The making of the album has been chronicled in an eight part mini series on HBO under the same name and has brought the American rock band back into the spotlight in a huge way.  Dave Grohl had been speaking about a world tour to support the new album and series but had yet to announce North American tour dates until yesterday.  The Foo's will play 29 shows across the country supported primarily by rock duo Royal Blood with the exception of their July 18th show at Fenway park where Grohl has asked local Boston underground heroes Mission of Burma to open. Tickets supposedly go on sale in three days on the 22nd with a heightened focus on getting tickets to fans directly so as to avoid hiked prices from scalpers who buy large amounts of tickets and list them on sites like StubHub.  So get in line, pick up the phone or go to the Foo Fighters website to get tickets because they will no doubt sell fast and if you haven't already seen the Foo's live it is not something to be missed.  With shows averaging three hours long, you definitely get your moneys worth and Grohl always has a few surprises to throw into the mix.  The band exemplifies modern rock and roll and if you're a fan of the genre, this is a show you simply must see.  Check out full details from Rolling Stone below.

Foo Fighters North American Tour Dates

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Song's from this Morning

1. Peaches - Presidents of the USA
2. Ruby Soho - Rancid
3. Porch - Pearl Jam
4. Shut Up - Blink 182
5. Where Did You Sleep Last Night - Nirvana

We are the Best! Captures the Essence of Punk Rock

I am a huge fan of independent films.  I love watching a movie with no A list actors and feeling so absorbed by the subject matter.  You believe and relate to the story so much more when you aren't staring at the face of Brad Pitt or Seth Rogen.  No matter how fabulous an actor is you will always know that you are in fact watching them perform.  With independent films however, we get the opportunity to really feel the authenticity of the subject matter.  Such is the case with We are the Best! A Swedish indie film about three young girls growing up in Stockholm during the early part of the 1980’s.  Bobo and her friend Klara are punk rockers and thus are outcasts.  Their hatred for their parents, school, and society is matched only by their fervent loyalty to each other and their adulation of punk music.  The film focuses on the two girls as they navigate the stresses of rough home lives and the constant battle that is public school.  However, after signing up for the communal band space at their local kids center, the two decide that they MUST start a band.  Soon they recruit a new friend named Hedwig.  The quiet, introverted, and religious girl is a sharp contrast to Bobo and Klara but the three soon become inseparable as Hedwig teaches the other two about how to play music.  The film is part coming of age tale, part music documentary, and part love story.  It’s incredibly hard to capture the spirit of something like punk rock.  To capture what it truly means or the effect it has on some people’s lives is supremely difficult and We are the Best! does a masterful job at showcasing the essence of punk through the the lives of these three girls.  Adolescence is a tough time for everyone and normal issues like boys, teachers, and parents are present throughout the film.  The difference is that the movie manages to show how punk is not only an escape for these girls through the music and style of nonconformity, but also how it is in and of itself a state of mind that allows you to do whatever you want.  Capturing the true DIY spirit of the genre, We are the Best! manages to avoid clichés and assumptions about punk while delivering a message we can all relate to: being young can be hard, but that shouldn't stop you from defining yourself the way you see yourself.  It shouldn't stop you from being what you want to be.  And that is what makes the genre and this film so wonderful.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Today's Playlist

1. Next of Kin - Alvvays
2. Sweet Pea - CHILDBIRTH
3. Miami - Against Me!
4. Psycho Killer - Talking Heads
5. Intergalactic - Beastie Boys
6. Teardrops on My Pillow - Dum Dum Girls
7. The Beauty Process - L7
8. Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam - The Vaselines
9. Would You Be Impressed? - Streetlight Manifesto
10. Bad Attitude - Articles of Faith

Alvvays Crafts Incredible 80's Infused Indi-Pop

Canadian five piece Alvvays (pronounced Always) has caught the indie world by storm with the release of their eponymous debut this past July.  The album is some incredibly ethereal and melodic indie pop and successfully redefines a genre which has been done to death these days.  Lead singer/guitarist Molly Rankin’s voice is unlike anyone else in the world of indie music today.  Her lyrics are both complex and accessible allowing you to hear what she’s saying and understand where she’s coming from while leaving a little open to interpretation.  All nine songs on the record are hits with Molly’s voice and guitarist Alec O’Hanley’s riffs as the focal point.  The guitar play between the two works masterfully and creates an infused and haunting style.  The 80’s influenced
soft rock sounds brought to the table by keyboardist Kerri MacLellan fit masterfully with O’Hanley’s surf rocky hooks and the steady simple drum beats of Phil MacIsaac which keep a similar tempo on every track.  Lead off song “Adult Diversion” will get stuck in your head for days and is one of the best on the album.  The single “Archie, Marry Me”  follows and is a perfect example of the sublime melodies present on the entire LP.  Other notable tracks include “Next of Kin” in which the narrator sings merrily about leaving her love to drown in a river with a chorus of “If I had known he couldn’t swim, we would never have gone in”.  Lighthearted track “Agency Group” brings the focus to the bass and drums while still allowing Rankin’s voice to shine through as the guiding light.  The slow, lullaby-like “Dives” precedes the fastest track “Atop a Cake” which starts pushing the soft indie pop of the other songs into rock territory which is refreshing after the mellow, almost euphoric sound of the rest of the album.  Alvvays is currently touring and had a recent stop in Boston where I missed what was hailed as an impressive show.  Live, the band sounds just as good as on their record and brings an energetic passion to their leisurely tunes.  Definitely check this band out and give the CD a listen.  The songs instill a warm fuzziness that makes you smile and relax.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Intimate Jimmy Page Interview

Rolling Stone contributor David Fricke recently sat down with guitar legend and Led Zeppelin founder Jimmy Page to discuss everything from the Zep reissues released this year to his opinions on the O2 arena reunion.  The interview is funny, heartwarming, intriguing, and a little sad.  Read it below, you won't be disappointed.

Jimmy Page Interview

Songs From This Morning

1. I Believe You - White Lung
2. One Beat - Sleater Kinney
3. Be Easy - He Is Legend
4. Leave Me Out - JEFF the Brotherhood
5. Fazer - Quicksand

Transformers Age of Extinction Should Have Had More Dinobots

                The Transformers franchise is FINALLY free of Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox.  Depending on your personal taste this may be a good or bad thing but for me it’s liberating.  I always felt the one thing holding those films back was the awkward character acting brought to the table by the two stars.  That being said, having Marky Mark come on board as a replacement isn’t too much better but at the end of the day the reason anyone is watching these movies is to see Optimus Prime and the other Transformers duke it out in all their epic, mechanized glory so who really cares.  On this front, Transformers: Age of Extinction did not disappoint. 
                This installation in the popular series takes place five years after the Battle of Chicago which saw the death of Megatron.  Humans have become distrustful of the Transformers and break all ties with them forcing each one to go into hiding.  A secret CIA operation is deployed to eliminate the remaining Decepticons but its vengeful leader is also focused on destroying the Autobots.  He feels the world will never be safe while any of the Transformers, good or bad, are on the planet.  Cade Yeager (played by Mark Wahlberg) is an inventor who comes across a broken down truck he hopes to salvage for parts.  The truck turns out to be a rusty and wounded Optimus Prime and Cade, along with his daughter Tessa gets sucked in to all the drama surrounding the alien, metal titans as Optimus is forced to flee the encroaching CIA operatives and their vile Transformer bounty hunter Lockdown who is on a personal mission to find Prime. 
                This installation, much like the previous Dark Side of the Moon, gives us background into the history of the Transformers and the effects they’ve been having on Earth for millennia.  Secrets are revealed which put the future of both Earth and the Transformers in a questionable light as Optimus and his Autobots must decide whether the humans are worth saving.  As is the case with any Michael Bay big budget blockbuster there isn’t a whole lot of substance to the movie.  The point is the special effects, fight scenes, and explosions of which there is an ample amount.  Wahlberg’s relationship with his daughter feels forced and cliché as he spends the entire movie more focused on her hidden relationship with boyfriend/amateur racecar driver Shane than the imminent destruction of the planet and the unrelenting battle of good and evil.  In addition, the Dinobots have a very small role to play which was immensely disappointing as the trailers focused almost exclusively on the addition of the gigantic prehistoric behemoths.  Still, what we did get to see was spectacularly awesome and made the entire movie for me.  On top of this is the introduction of Galvatron, a new villain with a hidden secret you’ll have to watch to find out.  If you were a fan of the other three films then you will enjoy this installation as well.  It feels just like the others and is a somewhat logical continuation of the story line with some fun new additions to keep you interested in what’s going to happen next.     

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Knocks It Out Of The Park

                For the first time in a while a movie’s sequel was just as good as its predecessor.  The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was everything I had hoped it would be.  Giving us insight into Peter Parker’s past, as well has his present and in some ways his future, the film painted a picture of Spider-Man as a larger identity; one that is bigger than Peter Parker.  Again starring Andrew Garfield as Spidey and Emma Stone as his beautiful girlfriend Gwen Stacy the film picks up largely where the last left off making it a logical continuation.  While I was skeptical at first of the idea of having multiple villains, I think it ended up working really well.  Multiple villains was the downfall of Spiderman 3 and ultimately led to that franchises downfall.  Here however it makes sense as we get to see the rise of Electro, played by Jamie Foxx.  Electro acts as the main story line villain and takes up the majority of Spider-Man’s crime fighting time.  However, the rebirth of the Green Goblin was what I was most interested in and I feel as though the film did a splendid job with his character. 
                Returning home from boarding school, a young Harry Osborn inherits his dying fathers company only to learn his father’s disease is genetic giving him limited time to live.  His growing anger with his father, himself, and Spider-Man for refusing to help leads Harry down a dark path.  The films rendition of the Green Goblin is spot on and more true to the comic books than the previous Toby McGuire trilogy in which Willem Defoe portrayed a fully masked version of the high flying supervillain.
                Incorporating Peter Parker’s daily struggle of trying to mix his civilian life with that of Spider-Man’s is important and something every good superhero movie must touch on.  His indecisiveness is a focal point for the film and one that reveals a deep internal struggle brilliantly portrayed by Garfield.  I would definitely watch the movie again as there was so much crammed in to its two hours and change that a second viewing would only serve to enhance the first.  With plenty of action, emotion, and little laughter, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a home run.

This Morning's Playlist

1. Dixie Cup and Jars - Waxahatchee
2. Archie, Marry Me - Alvvays
3. Spaceman - 4 Non Blondes
4. Your Weakness Give Me Life - Le Butcherettes
5. Back to the Shack - Weezer

Sleater Kinney Back Together!!

90's alt-rock giants Sleater Kinney have reformed and announced not only a new album slated for release in early 2015 but also a short tour of North America and Europe which will see the three piece hitting up the House of Blues in Boston! Guitarist/vocalist Corin Tuckin, guitarist/vocalist Carrie Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss, have thrown themselves back into their Olympia, WA roots and will no doubt play to sold out shows at each of their 21 American and European tour stops.  Read the full Rolling Stone article below and be sure to get tickets to their HOB show!  They go on sale Saturday at 10 AM and will no doubt be gone within minutes.

Sleater Kinney Announce New Album and Tour Dates

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Quiet Ones Has Some "Hold Your Breath" Moments

                Since we’re fast approaching Halloween, I figured it was time I reviewed a horror film.  I chose The Quiet Ones, a British supernatural horror movie directed by John Pogue.  The film stars Jared Harris as Joseph Coupland, a university professor from Oxford who conducts an experiment to try and prove that demonic possession isn’t real and can in fact be cured as if it were any other affliction.  He recruits a student named Brian (played by Sam Clafin, Hunger Games: Catching Fire) as a cameraman to document the process and along with his two assistants, the four retreat to a secluded house in the country where they can perform the experiment uninterrupted.  The subject is a girl named Jane Harper who was abandoned as a child and has long been passed from home to home.  She continues to go along with the experiment believing Professor Coupland can cure her.  However, it becomes clear that the forces involved in Jane’s life are far more complex and evil than the Professor and his students imagined.  Still, in an attempt to prove his hypothesis, Coupland goes to extreme and inhuman lengths to get results.
                The film received largely negative reviews and for the most part felt repetitive and unoriginal.  That being said, I still found it entertaining for several reasons.  For one, there are many “stomach clenching” moments which leave you waiting anxiously for something horrific to happen.  This to me is the mark of a truly great horror film.  It’s one of the things that made The Blair Witch Project so successful.  Sometimes, the thought of something frightening happening is more horrifying than something actually happening and in this way the movie uses your own mind against you.  In addition, the film is “loosely based on true events” in that it mimics the Philip Experiment in which a group of researchers attempted to prove that ghosts and possession are merely manifestations of our own subconscious.  I found this very intriguing and the The Quiet Ones adapts this story lightly enough to allow for elaboration while still maintaining the core concept. 

                All in all, the film was creepy and worth the 92 minute run time just like most horror movies.  Horror is one of those genres where you almost always go in to it knowing that from a film standpoint it will probably be less than spectacular.  But that isn’t the point.  With the exception of the few horror films which transcend the genre and become classics, most scary movies are intended to do just that, scare you.  This film did that on some level and so I would recommend it for that reason.  But don’t expect to be wowed, just expect to be startled.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Today's Playlist

1. Face Down - White Lung
2. Liar - Bikini Kill
3. Lights Out - Screaming Females
4. Mess Around - The Pits
5. When I Go Home - Milk
6. Beowulf - Slothrust
7. Fire in the Fens - A Guy Name Guy
8. Dreams - Sebadoh
9. Destroyers - The Shrine
10. Food Fight! - Titus Andronicus

White Lung Deliver Clear Vocals and Hardcore Intensity

Deep Fantasy the third album by Canadian punk band White Lung combines the high pitched, supersonic guitar components of metal with the lightning drums of early 80’s hardcore giants like Minor Threat.  The quartet has been at it since 2006 and has three full lengths under their belt, all of which have received critical acclaim.  Their latest, just released in June of this year is a savage display of what makes hardcore so great.  Lead singer Mish Way delivers her vocals in a whiny squeal but sounds amazingly close to Meredith Graves while keeping her words clear and recognizable.  Notable tracks off Deep Fantasy include “Down it Goes” and “Just for You” which have superb sing-a-long choruses and are prime examples of the caustic intensity seen across the whole album.  Hardcore has always been a misunderstood genre and is difficult to do right but White Lung has struck up a balance which sacrifices lo-fi sincerity for pure, raw intensity.  While many bands in the genre trade clarity for breakneck speed and power, White Lung manage walk a line between their ferocious sound and Way’s clearly stated words.  It’s refreshing to hear a hardcore band find this balance incorporating rock and heavy metal influences with precise vocals similar to early bands like Morris era Black Flag or the Dead Kennedys.  All that said, the band clearly represents the direction modern hardcore is taking and overall, I’d say it’s an impressive one.  I’d love to attend one of their shows to see the crowd’s response as the attendees of hardcore shows are the unofficial “fifth member” of the group and the force they add to the music only serves to enhance the band’s sound and potency.  I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on White Lung and would love to see other hardcore bands adopt the precision and tightness seen on Deep Fantasy.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

WHAT NO MOTHRA?! Godzilla Sacrifices a Strong Plot to Stay True to the Originals

I had extremely high hopes when it came to the 2014 reboot of Godzilla.  As a kid, I used to watch all the classic Godzilla monster movies with my dad and brother and they were some of the coolest movies I had ever seen.  I always appreciated the fact that at the end of the day, Godzilla is one of the good guys.  The destruction he causes is collateral damage; a necessary evil to prevent the destruction of the world.  After several attempts to recapture the magic of the early Godzilla monster flicks, I had given up hope that we would ever see the blue breath wielding “King of the Monsters” in his true form ever again.  I’m happy to say that this film proved my wrong, but it wasn’t without its faults.
                The films plot centers around Joe Brody, a supervisor at the Janjira Nuclear Plant in Japan and his son Ford.  Over a decade after a mysterious earthquake destroyed the plant, Ford travels back to Japan to assist his father who has been trying for years to determine the true cause of the disaster.  They come to realize that a cover up has been in place and that the “quarantine zone” around the destroyed plant is really a containment area for a “massive, unidentified, terrestrial organism” which the scientists call a “MUTO”.  After the MUTO escapes and a second one emerges thousands of miles away, the military personnel and scientists alike defer to Ishiro Serizawa (played by Ken Watanabe) who is a member of Project Monarch a secretive agency set up in the 1950’s to study Godzilla, a large monster discovered during nuclear testing in the Philippines.  Serizawa insists that Godzilla will help them save the world from the monsters and after much convincing the three titans are allowed to fight it out to the death.
                The film was a massive success in the overall sense.  Similar to the Godzilla films of the 50’s and 60’s, the movie was simply the sudden appearance of two evil monsters and the necessary arrival of Godzilla to preserve balance in the world and destroy them.  Godzilla was back to being the “good guy” so to speak and ends up being cheered on by the very humans who were initially trying to destroy him.  The ending scenes in which Godzilla actually gets down to brawling with the MUTOs are spectacular.  Godzilla looks just like he’s supposed to with the massive stegosaurus-like plates running down his back and the stubby nose and face which look almost canine.  His roar has the same pleasing echo as his earlier counterparts and when he leans back and unleashes his radioactive blue fire breath the movie reaches its cinematic, monster movie apex. 
                However, while plot holes and storyline flaws are easily overlooked in the now campy Godzilla films from 50 years ago, they are harder to get past in today’s modern cinema.  The plot was very chunky and felt like we jumped from one thing to the next almost as if you could tell when one page of the screenplay ended and the next began.  This made the movie feel blocked out and almost episodic, as if it was a miniseries condensed into a feature film.  Brian Cranston plays Joe Brody whose character turns out to be a disappointment rather than a strong focal point which I was really hoping for.  All in all, I felt happy at the end of the film.  I got to see what I wanted which was an accurate portrayal of my favorite movie monster in all his epic glory, destroying the monsters in a heroic battle which looked marvelous with today’s special effects.  I just wish the plot and character development was better thought out.  I would have loved to know more about Project Monarch and Watanabe’s character Serizawa.  But I guess there is always hope for a sequel because as is the case in every true Godzilla movie, the King of the Monsters slowly makes his way back into the deep sea abyss from whence he came waiting until the time he is needed again.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

This Morning's Playlist

1. No Hair No Flair - White Pages
2. Brill Bruisers - The New Pornographers
3. Drown the the Monster - White Lung
4. Cheap Talk - Death From Above 1979
5. Something Came Over Me - Wild Flag

Bob Mould In All His Alternative Glory

Bob Mould has once again succeeded at creating alternative rock gold.  His latest solo album Beauty and Ruin has the same raw intensity seen in his time with Husker Du while maintaining the more alt rock oriented sound of his early solo albums and influential 90’s band Sugar.  The albums 10 tracks combine elements of alternative, punk, grunge, and rock in a way which can best be described as a mash up between the Foo Fighters and Bad Religion if you must draw a comparison.  Lead in track “Low Season” starts with a haunting and mesmerizing guitar riff which navigates slowly through a melancholy drum beat and comes crashing down with the symbols during the chorus setting a dark and mystifying tone which is abandoned on second track “Little Glass Pill” which hits you like a ton of bricks after chilling out to the slow opener.  The tracks fast, punk rock tempo startles you at first but reminds you that this is in fact the ex-guitarist for one of the preeminent 80’s hardcore bands of the Midwest.  “I Don’t Know You Anymore” follows with a more pop rock, radio friendly sound before continuing into “Kid With Crooked Face” which brings us right back to the blistering tempo and punk sound of Glass Pill and ends up sounding the most like Husker Du on the album alongside the later track “Tomorrow Morning”.  “Nemeses are Laughing” comes next and again returns to the radio rock of some of the earlier tracks.  Mould manages to switch back and forth almost seamlessly providing catchy songs for both mainstream rock fans and underground die-hards.  “The War” comes next and is one of the best songs on the album employing a mix of 70’s punk influences and pop rock to craft a sound similar to the Foo’s.  This sound is continued on “Hey Mr. Grey” but not before cooling off, as is the style of the record, with “Forgiveness” a soft rock ballad with no central guitar riff and a xylophone in the background which definitely sounds the most out of place on the record.  The album comes to a close with two songs which again vary greatly in sound while still maintaining a cohesiveness which ties the album together.  “Let the Beauty Be” is an acoustic soft rock gem which calms your pulse before the record finishes with a bang.  Closing track “Fix It” is some incredible alterna-pop and has the best drums out of all 12 songs which is only fitting as any self-respecting rock album should leave your pulse racing at the end.  In the same vein as Ian Mackaye and his band The Evens, Bob Mould has shown that it is not only possible for the early 80’s hardcore sound to evolve and grow over time but that it’s influences can be used to create something totally new which exemplifies the fact that music is too great and varied to restrict yourself to one style.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

First New Album from U2 in Five Years is FREE!!

So it seems that secret albums are all the rage nowadays after Beyonce dropped her self titled new album nearly a year ago.  This week U2 surprised the world with the announcement of a new album now available online and on iTunes which is FREE to download.  This isn't an EP or a single but a full length album, their 13th to date.  Titled "Songs of Innocence" the album has received very positive reviews and lets be honest, it's free music so who cares what it sounds like?

Only Lovers Left Alive - A Different Take on the Vampire Story

                The Vampire story has been done to death (pun intentional).  Movies, TV, books, virtually every platform there is has been dominated in recent memory by peoples fascination with the blood sucking Dracula descendants.  That being said, there are still some films which tackle the genre without giving in to popular demand for violent action sequences like in Underworld, or teen romance and alienation like in Twilight
                Such is the case with the British/German film Only Lovers Left Alive which takes on the vampire myth similar to the first season of True Blood in which the focus is heavily on both the history of the vampires themselves and who they are as people.  The film focuses on Adam and Eve played by Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton.  The couple has lived for centuries and has had a hand in influencing many great works of art and music as well as breakthroughs in the fields of science and technology (Adam’s house in the abandoned slums of Detroit is run by technology he helped develop with Nicola Tesla).  Despite all their achievements, knowledge, and wealth, the two have become increasingly disillusioned with not just life, but humanity as a whole; particularly Adam who frequently refers to humans as “zombies” and sees them as mindless drones incapable of any true creation or discovery.  Adam goes so far as to ask a human boy who routinely acquires rare musical equipment for him to get him a wooden bullet as he sits alone in his home and contemplates suicide.  After a quick video call to his wife Eve who has lived the past several years in Tangier, he convinces her to return from her extended holiday where she has spent time rapidly pouring through endless stacks of books.  The two have moved beyond the need to feed on humans and instead get sustenance from a blood bank where Adam has paid off a doctor.  After increased attention from locals, and an unwelcome visit from Eve’s younger sister Ava who is both immature and unpredictable, the two decide to return to Eve’s home in Tangier.  After arriving the two pay a visit to Eve’s source of blood, an ancient vampire named Christopher Marlowe (played by John Hurt) who gets them their sustenance from various sources.  However, they find a sickly and dying Marlowe in bed after consuming a batch of tainted blood.  Now Adam and Eve, stumbling through the streets in a hunger stricken daze notice a young couple in an alley and realize that there is no escaping what must be done.
           Overall, I did have some problems with the film.  Much of the historical references are difficult to ascertain which coupled with the lack of any sort of vampire activity like feeding on humans makes it hard to see Adam and Eve as vampires and not just reclusive intellectuals.  In addition, when the two consume blood it has a euphoric, almost drug induced effect on them which leads to drawn out scenes of psychedelic dancing and other activities which starts to get a little annoying.  That being said, I understand why the film does it as it shows that at their core, they are still creatures with the primal need to feed on the blood of humans.  Something that is inescapable despite their extremely civilized and intellectual existence. 
           In the end, the film is a very interesting take on the vampire myth and is done in a way that allows you to focus on the experience of a vampire; what their day to day mentality is and what their personality has developed into over centuries of life as opposed to watching them fight werewolves.  While I would have LOVED to see some historical reenactment in the form of flashbacks as I think that is what contributes to some of the greatest vampire movies ever, I still think that there was enough historical reference to keep you smiling.  Only Lovers Left Alive is a film that sacrifices the big budget blockbuster aspects of most vampire stories of today in favor of a more low key love story.  It is simply another chapter in the long lives of these two lovers which we get to look in on, and that is what makes the film so unique.

Today's Playlist

1. Low Season - Bob Mould
2. Dreams - Sebadoh
3. Drunken Butterfly - Sonic Youth
4. A Mirror - Sonic Youth
5. Giving Into Seeing - Cloud Nothings

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Divergent - Another Poorly Done YA Novel Adaptation

Here we go again, another YA novel movie adaptation which tries to capitalize on the popularity of the Hunger Games but fails miserably.  This would be fine if it hadn't happened a bunch of times already (I’m looking at you Mortal Instruments).  Divergent capitalizes on the public’s current obsession with dystopian science fiction but fails to create a story which is either emotionally charged or particularly exciting 
                The story focuses on Beatrice, a citizen of the destroyed city of Chicago 100 years after the “end of the world”.  She lives in a society separated into five factions which are designed to keep people in line based on their personality traits.  Beatrice belongs to Abnegation which is the selfless class and the ruling government body.  However, at the age of 16 every member of society is allowed to choose which faction they wish to be a part of.  Once the decision is made, there is no going back.  Beatrice much decide between the safe decision of staying with her family or the hard decision of leaving them behind forever and joining the military faction Dauntless which she has always envied.  If she joins them and fails, she risks becoming faction-less and having to live on the streets with no food or shelter.              
                Before choosing, Beatrice is evaluated only to find out that she is a Divergent meaning she fits into not one but three categories.  Her evaluator hurries her out the door and tells her never to speak of this.  Divergents threaten the system which has kept this society in line for over a century and are thus eliminated.  When the time comes, Beatrice decides to join Dauntless and leaves her family behind to start her new life.  The trials are difficult but she manages to pick herself up after every fall and keep working at it, determined to succeed.  Eventually, Beatrice finds herself at the center of a plot to overthrow Abnegation by the intelligence faction Erudite.  Beatrice must work together with her Dauntless instructor Four to try and save her old faction. 
                The story has more holes in it than I know what to do with and was predictable from start to finish.  There are so many questions, which makes it difficult to take the concept seriously.  Why don’t the faction-less rise up and overthrow the others?  Why does no one have any desire to leave the city of Chicago?  Are there other settlements around the country or the world?  It’s been over 100 years since the end of civilization and no one has once thought about trying to contact other pockets of survivors?  Are we meant to believe that Chicago was the only place to survive?  And these are just the big questions!  Beatrice’s decision to leave her faction and join Dauntless is supposed to be emotional because she will never get to see her family again and yet she takes a Saturday stroll to see her brother in Erudite one afternoon as if it’s no big deal.  I could go on and on.  In the end, the issue is that humans are far more complex and free thinking than this system implies.  It just wouldn't hold up for the 100 years it has.  
                Now let me take a minute to confess that I haven’t read the books.  Many of these questions may be answered in subsequent sequels.  But the questions weren’t the only problem with the film.  The sub par romance between Beatrice and Four was predictable and completely unnecessary.  The films climax is over in 15 minutes and even that is far too long as a mind controlled Dauntless army stands ready to shoot every member of Abnegation awaiting only the Erudite leader’s final command.  But in typical Bond villain fashion, an exorbitant amount of time is wasted allowing Beatrice and Four to save the day.  
                Overall, the film felt hurried and poorly thought out.  When this genre is done correctly, it can make for an exciting film for all ages as in the case of movies like Enders Game or Percy Jackson and the Lightning Theif.  But Divergent was a prime example of a movie that left WAY too much to the imagination which for someone over the age of 18, was hard to overlook.  Unless you can relate to Beatrice on a personal level (i.e you’re a teenage girl who doesn't feel like she fits in, but can overcome any obstacle if she puts her mind to it) than the film just isn't for you.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Noah - Slightly Embellished, But That's a Good Thing

Noah was a standard Russell Crowe epic with breathtaking effects and a story which was slightly embellished (this is Hollywood we’re talking about).  Personally, I am not a religious person so I had little knowledge of the story of Noah and the Ark besides the two of every animal detail which I’m sure almost everyone is aware of.  That being said, the film didn't
seem to stem too far from truth.  The tale begins with Noah as a boy witnessing the death of his father.  It shows that from an early age, Noah was made brutally aware of the evils of humanity.  Fast forward many years and we find an adult Noah who is living peacefully with his wife Naameh (played by Jennifer Connelly) and their three sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth.  After having several dreams of a great flood and witnessing the growth of a flower at his feet, Noah decides to take his family to seek advice from his grandfather Methuselah.  After escaping the clutches of the same ruthless band of people who had a hand in his father’s death, Noah and his family make it to the scorched land inhabited by the Watchers, fallen angels who've lost touch with the Creator because of their willingness to help Adam and Eve after the Fall.  Along the way, they pick up the orphaned Ila (played by Emma Watson) and welcome her into their family.  After reaching the top of the mountain, Methuselah (expertly portrayed by Anthony Hopkins) informs Noah that he was chosen by the Creator to save the animals, the so called “innocents” from a great flood which is supposed to wipe out the Creator’s biggest mistake, humans.  Noah accepts and after planting a seed from the Garden of Eden, given to him by Methuselah, witnesses the immediate growth of a massive forest.  Upon seeing the work of the creator right before their eyes, the Watchers agree to help Noah build the Ark.  Throughout the course of the film Noah is faced with difficult choices and does his best to carry out the Creator’s wishes, even when it means potentially killing members of his own family.  While at first I was skeptical, the movie turned out to be very entertaining.  I enjoyed learning the back story of Noah’s lineage and Anthony Hopkins portrayal of Methuselah is worth the price of admission in and of itself.  Stunning visual effects and some emotionally charged moments between Noah and other members of his family contribute to the success of this film for sure.  Not only that, but the embellishments make the film feel more like a Sci-Fi/Fantasy movie than a biblical epic which is a good thing because if you are not a religious person, the movie can be a little much.  However, as with other stories from the Old Testament the fantastical elements make for a compelling and captivating film which was fun to watch and didn't just feel like a Sunday school lesson.

Songs from Today's Playlist

1. Heaven is a Truck - Pavement
2. Gladiator - The Jesus Lizard
3. Low Season - Bob Mould
4. Thin Twin - Hunters
5. Bent Nail - Nothing
6. No Below - Speedy Ortiz
7. Suffragette City - David Bowie
8. Lust for Life - The Stooges
9. This is Anarchy - Tacocat
10. Oliver Twisted - The Vaselines

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tacocat Issue Incredible Debut LP

Tacocat’s debut full length “NVM” is some spectacular alterna-pop.  The albums thirteen songs sound like a cross between the upbeat new wave of the Go-Go’s, the powerful indie rock of the Breeders, and the soft lighthearted 60’s surf rock of the Beach Boys.  The Seattle based four-piece is starting to burst out of the underground and garner some mainstream attention which is both a good and bad thing.    The members, in true DIY spirit, are all involved in side projects which are not only just as good as Tacocat, but contribute to a scene which has for decades now produced some of the best alternative music the world as ever seen.  Notable tracks include “Bridge to Hawaii” about escaping the dreariness of the northwest by building a bridge to the tropical paradise.  Poppy drums and simple alt riffs contribute to the catchiness of all of Tacocat’s songs, particularly on the 50’s style “Party Trap”  which sounds like something from the Grease soundtrack and is followed punk charged  “F.U. #8”.  The band gives its own take on the popular subject of anarchy in “This is Anarchy” which tackles millennial angst and frustration with the economy.  The riot grrrl charged “Hey Girl” is about the objectification of women and is the heaviest song on the record both in sound and subject matter.  Fans of bands like Dum Dum Girls, or Bleached will LOVE this album though the songs have something for every musical taste.  From start to finish, each and every song is just fun and catchy with great lyrics that make you want to dance around the room and smile.  Plus, their band name is fantastic.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - Simply Superb Sequel

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was spectacular.  The follow up to 2012’s amazing Rise of the Planet of the Apes which rebooted the famed franchise, Dawn continues in the same vein with action packed tension and emotional depth.  Taking place ten years later, we find the world devastated by the Simian Flu, the deadly virus which kills humans and boosts apes intelligence that was shown spreading worldwide at the close of the first film.  Still in the woods outside San Francisco, Caesar has built a developed community and is the leader of a new generation of apes living in peace.  This is until a chance encounter between a group of humans led by a man named Malcom, and Caesar’s son Blue Eyes alongside a fellow ape.  One of the humans with Malcom shoots Blue Eyes’ friend and the group flees.  Caesar decides to lead a large number of apes to the human settlement in a show of force.  Riding into town on horseback and clearly establishing himself as the leader, Caesar addresses the human colony telling them if they stay on their land, the apes will stay on theirs.  This would be fine if it wasn’t for the hydroelectric damn near the ape’s village which the humans desperately need for power.  Malcom convinces their leader Dreyfus (played by Gary Oldman) to give him three days to attempt to make peace with Caesar.  Friendships are created and loyalties broken as Malcom and Caesar attempt to preserve peace contrary to the wishes of Dreyfus who arms the humans for conflict and Koba, Caesar’s second in command who despises humans for the treatment he received under their care before the outbreak.  The film is a cinematic triumph as you sympathize with both the apes and the humans.  Neither is in the wrong, and despite the emergence of one distinct villain over the course of the film, everyone involved is just trying to survive and make a life for themselves.  The scenes between Malcom and Caesar are by far some of the most powerful as Caesar comes to realize that there are plenty of decent humans left and that despite his naïve point of view, there are plenty of evil apes.  The film contrasts the societies of the apes and humans in wonderfully unique ways to show that while we are different, we are very much the same.  This realization of equality is all the more heart wrenching as the two sides fall deeper and deeper into a conflict which will inevitably lead to all-out war.  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has proven that the first film was not a one hit wonder and that the newly revamped franchise is only going to get better and better.  The film is still playing in some theatres so go see it while you still have the chance!

Songs from this Morning

1. Hey Girl - Tacocat
2. Follow Me - The Coathangers
3. Psychic Trauma - Cloud Nothings
4. It Will Not Be Moved - Classics of Love
5. Scienceless - Lemuria

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Cloud Nothings Deliver Powerful Follow Up to 2012's Attack on Memory

Cloud Nothings new LP Here and Nowhere Else is a sophisticated and logical follow up to 2012’s Attack on Memory.  Employing the same influences and sounds cultivated on their 2012 breakout, lead singer Dylan Baldi has proven that his band has not only done a 180 from where they began, but has carved out a nitch in the current indie-rock landscape which is sure to see continued success.  Much like Attack, Here and Nowhere Else’s eight tracks combine the forceful, gut punching drums of heavy metal with the blistering guitar riffs of punk.  Combined with Baldi’s uniquely shrill howl, the album is some truly fantastic modern rock and roll.  Lead in track “Now Here In” is reminiscent of The Men and has great tempo changes combined with a loud/quiet/loud song structure alongside some softer vocals from Baldi.  “Quieter Today” has heart stopping pauses which erupt into mind numbing explosions of lightning drums and a much shriller howl from Baldi.  “Psychic Trauma” starts out slower but transforms halfway through as Baldi shrieks into the mic as if it were his last time on stage.  By the end, his sincerity oozes from the speakers and finishes out the punkiest song on the album.  The poppier “Just See Fear” is the most radio friendly on the album and is followed by the rock heavy “Give Into Seeing” which has a forceful chorus that builds and builds and finishes with an echo-y verse that gains momentum with its repetition even as the song comes to a close.  “No Thoughts” is very reminiscent of the songs from Attack on Memory with a central guitar riff which is accentuated by several pauses of the rhythm section all leading up to Baldi’s loudest finish on the album which sees his voice so raspy and ready to break that you’d think he had laryngitis.  The 7 minute “Pattern Walks” shows that the band has not only settled in to their new sound extremely well, but that they are also not afraid to push the boundary.  Combining the best elements of every song on the album, the song is a powerhouse of modern indie-rock and sets Cloud Nothings apart from other bands.  The album closes with the chunky “I’m Not Part of Me” which has a catchy chorus and is a stand out stadium rock song that definitely sounds the most “mainstream” out of any other song on the album.  Overall, Cloud Nothings has put out a phenomenal release which follows up the incredible songs on Attack on Memory and shows that this is a band which is not only capable of making a dramatic change in their sound, but capable of evolving that sound and continuing to develop it on subsequent releases, something many bands struggle with.  One thing is certain, Cloud Nothings are here to stay and have proven that they are band whose genre bending rock and roll is a force to be reckoned with in the modern music landscape.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Under the Skin Was Terrible

I don't usually write poor reviews as I can often find the good in any movie but this particular film was an absolute chore to get through.  Several times I found myself wanting to just shut it off, but I stuck it out to the bitter end which was worth it as the best scenes in the movie are arguably the final few.  The film stars Scarlett Johansson as an alien seductress who comes to earth in search of human specimens.  After donning the clothes of a deceased female motorist, she begins to pursue men as she drives around the Scottish countryside.  All the while she learns a little bit at a time about the humans she is interacting with.  After abducting then men she brings them back to her apartment (which appears to be a disguise for her ship).  Once inside the ship, a simple, infinite black void, the men are stripped and absorbed into a viscous liquid where their insides are sucked out leaving behind only their skin.  In the end, the alien begins to sympathize with humanity, eventually letting one of the men she brings to her house go.  However, her mysterious accomplice, a man on a motorcycle who we assume is another alien, quickly tracks him down and disposes of him.  At the end of the film, the alien is attacked by a logger in the woods who manages to rip some of her "human suit" off revealing the shiny, obsidian like alien figure beneath.  This is without a doubt the best part of the film as we get to actually see what this modern take of the "body snatcher" looks like.  I won't give away the ending as I encourage everyone to form their own opinion and watch it for themselves.  The film garnered mostly positive reviews (incredibly) so there's no saying that you wouldn't thoroughly enjoy it yourself.  While I understand what the movie was trying to get across, I felt that it took forever for you to come to the realization that this is all that is going to happen.  Just Scarlett Johansson finding men to bring to her empty black spaceship over and over and over again.  By the time you realize that the plot isn't going to go anywhere else it's too late and you might as well just wait it out til the end.  Overall, the film is a dark take on the "alien abduction" theme and is more about experiencing humanity through the eyes of an extraterrestrial than anything else.  If you go in to it with that mindset, then it's easier to appreciate what the film was trying to do.  But I assure you, if you go into it expecting a sci-fi thriller, or really action of any kind, you will be 100% sorely disappointed.  No part of it keeps you on the edge of your seat and the lack of any sort of meaningful soundtrack (while adding to the films haunting nature) makes it feel drawn out and flat.  Most definitely the most disappointing film I've seen in years.

Songs from Today's Commute

1. Doom 84 - Screaming Females
2. Ziggy Stardust - David Bowie
3. Sweet Pea - CHILDBIRTH
4. Terms of Endearment - White Pages
5. T.V. - Idiot Genes

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Music Streaming Has Taken Over

For the first time ever, digital download sales of music on services like iTunes have gone down by over 10%.  The converse of this is a dramatic increase in the percentage of people who use music streaming services like Spotify which offer paid users unlimited access to millions of songs on demand.  The shift is interesting in that the download has reigned supreme ever since the introduction of the iPod but as the smartphone revolution has taken over society, it's allowed the average person to have access to these online mobile services which were previously out of reach for people on the go.  This isn't limited to the United States either.  The trend has taken off worldwide as evidenced by Deezer, a streaming service available in 182 countries.  As technology continues to evolve it's only a matter of time until the next big thing takes over the music industry but it seems that streaming is certainly the way of the near future.  For those interested in the newest trends, read the Rolling Stone article on Deezer below.

Deezer - Worldwide Music Streaming

RoboCop - Classic 80's Action for the Modern World

                It's sad to admit that I have never seen the original RoboCop so I can’t comment on how well the 2014 remake follows the first film from the 1980’s franchise.  However, I can say that the film was very entertaining in its own right and was a perfect example of taking a tried and true idea from decades ago and adapting it to the modern world which has been the norm in Hollywood lately (See my review of Rise of the Planet of the Apes). 
                The movie takes place in 2028, scarily only 14 years in the future, in a time when the US conducts its foreign policy with robotic soldiers and drones to cut down on both US soldier and civilian casualties.  All the robots are supplied by multi-billion dollar corporation OmniCorp which is seeking to expand its market to the United States where crime is still a huge issue all across the country.  OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellars has been trying for years to establish an artificially intelligent national police force which he believes would ultimately eliminate crime across the board.  Unfortunately, public opinion shows that the country is frightened by the idea of robot soldiers patrolling the streets and so Sellars must find a way to sway the public into thinking it’s a good idea.  Enter police detective Alex Murphy.  After attempting to bring down a major crime boss with ties to the Detroit Police Department, Murphy is critically injured by a car bomb outside his home.  Left with almost no physical body, Murphy’s wife gives the go ahead to OmniCorp’s head scientist Dr. Dennett Norton to build a robot body for him.  Alex first struggles with his new life as he comes to terms with the fact that he is nothing more than a robot with a human head.  Becoming the poster boy for OmniCorp’s overarching goals, Alex becomes RoboCop, a super soldier with the strength and skills of a robot soldier and the intelligence, emotions, and free will of a human being.  This last trait however is only mimicked.  Alex believes he is in control when in reality his body and mind are controlled exclusively by Dr. Norton.  Over the course of the film, Alex must fight this control and use the human side of him to take back control of his artificial body. 

                The film felt like any classic 80’s action flick updated for the modern world.  Explosions and beautiful effects are the focal point to help detract from the plot which isn’t too complex or intricate.  The curse words and occasional nudity give the film its R rating which is disappointing as neither is necessary and I feel the film would have been better with a PG-13 rating.  Overall, the film has some great acting, particularly by Gary Oldman who plays Dr. Norton.  Straddling the line between good and bad, his character is by far the most complex and fun to watch.  If you’re a fan of the original then I’m sure you’ll enjoy the remake purely for nostalgia’s sake.  If not, the movie is an ideal example of a blockbuster action film which keeps you exhilarated from start to finish as you rarely go more than 5 minutes without someone firing a gun or blowing something up.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Tracks From This Morning

1. White Fire - Angel Olsen
2. Pretty Things - Radkey
3. Grip - Jawbox
4. I Against I - Bad Brains
5. Bodies Made Of - Parquet Courts

Angel Olsen's Debut LP Is Some Truly Captivating Indie-Folk Music

The soft, indie folk of Angel Olsen’s debut LP Burn Your Fire for No Witness is as diverse and eclectic as it is powerful.  Each of the albums eleven tracks are incredibly unique and yet the album feels very cohesive from start to finish.  Tracks like “Forgiven/Forgotten” incorporate some alternative influences using lo-fi guitar mixed with slow and steady folk drumming.  Still there is plenty of that modern, indie sound mixed in which is reminiscent of Silversun Pickups to a degree (albeit substantially toned down).  A wide array of instruments are used as well, including piano on several tracks like “High and Wild” which maintains the alternative sound of “Forgiven/Forgotten”.  Still, the albums strengths are in its slower songs which really capture Olsen’s exceptionally distinctive voice.  She channels Johnny Cash on the electronic acoustic “Hi-Five” which incorporates a distinct feel of the 1940’s.  Florence Welch comes through on songs like “Stars” and closing track “Windows” which both offer up Olsen’s voice as the focal point.  This is especially the case on “Enemy” an extremely soft, acoustic ballad with barely any backing track.  “Lights Out” exemplifies Angel Olsen’s style.  The vocals evoke some of the best singer-songwriters in the modern indie landscape and the alterna-folk sound subtly present on the whole album comes through heaviest on this song.  My favorite track on the album may be “White Fire” whose dark, melodic sound is unlike anything I’ve heard in a while.  The enchanting echo of the steady guitar and drums in the background drive Olsen’s poetic lyrics in a haunting and mesmerizing way.  The track is the longest on the album clocking in at nearly seven minutes long but that works to the songs advantage as you feel yourself getting sucked further and further into Olsen’s captivating lyrics.  This entire album blew me away with its many influences, instruments, and techniques.  Incorporating so many genres including folk, indie, lo-fi, alternative, singer/songwriter (the list goes on) the album has a little something for everyone.  While the tracks all have a slower, I hate to say depressing feel similar to Lana Del Ray, they invoke a wonderfully pleasing calmness which at the end leaves you feeling more serene than depressed.  Definitely an album EVERYONE should check out.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Lego Movie is a Must See

The Lego Movie was……fantastic!!!  I was skeptical when my wife asked me to bring this one home as the commercials showed me nothing more than a movie which was designed for kids to capitalize on the current extreme popularity of all things Lego.  I was sorely mistaken.  The film was laugh out loud funny from start to finish and brought back countless memories through the movies references to classic Lego sets new and old.  The film is an underdog story at its heart and focuses on Emmet Brickowski, an standard construction worker mini figure who goes through the motions of his everyday life in Bricksburg.  Everyone conforms to the rules of society and no one asks any questions.  They all eat the same food and watch the same show, a hilariously simple comedy called “Where Are My Pants?” which is an hysterical take on generic daytime sitcoms.  The point is that Emmet doesn’t have a single original or imaginative thought.  Then one day, he returns to his job site and bumps into the attractive, hair flipping, mysterious girl Wildstyle who is attempting to retrieve The Piece of Resistance to stop the evil President Business from unleashing the devastating power of the Kragle and destroying the known world.  After falling through a hole at the construction site, Emmet ends up finding the Piece and Wildstyle tells him that the prophecy dictates he is “The Special” and is destined to save the world.  Emmet is sucked into an adventure which leads him through the other Lego realms including the Pirate Sea and the Old West.  With the help of Wildstyle, the ancient wizard Vitruvius, Batman, and many other recognizable Lego faces, Emmet learns to become a Master Builder and unleash his imagination in ways he never thought possible.  With Will Ferrell as President Business, Morgan Freeman as Vitruvius, Will Arnett as Batman, and Elizabeth Banks as Wildstyle, the film has an all-star comedic cast which manages to insert plenty of jokes aimed at the older crowd watching the movie.  In the end, the secret behind the Kragle and President Business is revealed in an outcome which is both heartwarming and a tad predictable.  If you’re a fan of Legos then you MUST see this film.  Even if you aren’t it was still a hysterical movie that will no doubt appeal to children and adults alike; a perfect pick for family movie night.