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.