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Archive | December, 2016

Movie Breakdown: Paterson

December 23, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Jim Jarmusch has always been a hit or miss director for me, so I’m heading into Paterson with my expectations firmly in check.  I do like the homely feel of the trailer though, and Adam Driver usually pops up in good films.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Here’s hoping you like watching someone’s day to day life, because that’s what Paterson is all about.  Paterson (Adam Driver) gets up, he goes to his day gig (bus driver), he comes home, he has dinner with his space cadet girlfriend, he takes his grumpy dog for a walk, he stops by his neighborhood dive bar for a beer or two, and then he goes home and crashes.  Oh, and if there’s free time, he writes poetry.  That’s it.  That’s the movie.  Director Jim Jarmusch shows this routine over the course of a week, and you’ll either be transfixed by it or bored out of your damn mind.  For a moment, I definitely got caught up in Paterson’s ho hum existence, as it’s comfy and features a few quirky details, but since the character has no ultimate goal and there’s no real measure of drama or anything in the film, it wasn’t long before I started wondering just when I might be able to escape his monotonous world.  Is that what Jarmusch was hoping to accomplish?  I don’t know.  Seems pretty unlikely though.

If you want something small and realistic that’s sort of artsy and devoid of any real dramatic highs or lows, then I guess see Paterson.  Otherwise you should probably let it slide right by you.

One Last Thought:

Paterson is the latest thing to make me wish that I had a legit neighborhood bar.  There are a few that are within walking distance from me, but I don’t like any of them enough to visit on a daily basis.  Talk about first world problems, right?

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Movie Breakdown: Lion

December 21, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

There are a lot of talented people attached to Lion.  This means it’s either going to be really good or just another slice of “based on a true story” style Oscar bait.

Post-Screening Ramble:

The first half of Lion is riveting.  A very young boy named Saroo (Sunny Pawar) gets separated from his brother and ends up locked inside of a train that takes him so far away from his home that when he’s finally able to escape it he finds himself among people who don’t even speak the same language as him.  He attempts to get help, but since he can’t understand anyone and they can’t understand him, he soon finds himself alone and on the streets, where he narrowly avoids a variety of dangerous situations before eventually ending up in a seedy group home for kids.  Yikes, right?  Yes.  Yikes.  Eventually though Saroo gets adopted by a super nice Australian family, and this is where the film hits a wall.  The man (now played by Dev Patel) can’t stop thinking about the family he lost, and so he mopes around a lot and obsessively browses Google Earth in an effort to locate his hometown.  These parts are immensely boring.  I know the real life Saroo did something amazing in locating his lost hometown via Google Earth, but the cinematic retelling of his search is as dull as can be.  It straight up feels like seven hours of Dev Patel either crying or staring off into the distance and remembering what it was like to play with his brother and/or farm rocks with his mother.  Not good.

Lion starts out like it’s going to be something incredibly moving, but it ends up hobbled by poor storytelling.  If anything, wait until you can watch this one at home.

One Last Thought:

Lion made me realize that I no longer like Dev Patel.  He’s been playing the same sort of wide-eyed, unknowingly overbearing character since Slumdog Millionaire (2008), and I just can’t take it anymore.  Somebody get that fella a new role.

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Movie Breakdown: Assassin’s Creed

December 20, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Video game adaptations are rarely good, so that makes it difficult to believe Assassin’s Creed will be a winner.  Who knows though, maybe Michael Fassbender will change the tide.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Assassin’s Creed is a tedious mess.  The film begins with Aguilar (Michael Fassbender) reciting the … Assassin’s Creed.  Then The Black Angels’ Entrance Song starts blasting (the line “rolling fast down I-35″ is somewhat jarring when heard during the Spanish Inquisition) and an eventual transition happens where a boy named Cal is introduced and then quickly thrown away for the adult version of himself (Michael Fassbender).  Man-Cal is a baddie and is about to receive a big dose of Capital Punishment, but a company called Abstergo swipes him, plugs him into a machine called the Animus and then goes about using his genes to search for a mysterious object called The Apple of Eden.  The film then parkours back and forth between Cal as Aguilar in Spain on the hunt for the Apple and Cal as Cal in present day struggling to figure out if he wants to be an Assassin or a Templar.  And that’s about it.  There are other characters but they have zero depth, the Animus is only ever lightly explained, a startling lack of info on the Apple is provided, and the history of Templars v. Assassins isn’t really touched on.  I’d like to think that the lack of hand-holding/world-building was done on purpose since there are so many games in the rather popular Assassin’s Creed series, but because the movie overall doesn’t make a lot of sense, I’m going to go ahead and chalk up the lack of details to poor film-making by director Justin Kurzel.  While I’m at it, I’m also going to toss the bland action and the cold, dark and muddled look of the film on his shoulders, too.

Whether or not you’re a fan of the Assassin’s Creed games, you don’t want to see this movie.  Skip.

One Last Thought:

These breakdowns of mine are spoiler free territory, but I have to note something about how this film ends.  Drag and highlight just below here to see it (if you want).

The film concludes with the Assassins infiltrating a secret Templar meeting and recovering their magical apple.  And by infiltrate, I mean they get wanded by security and then walk into the meeting like it’s no big deal.  They even do it while wearing ominous hoods!  How is this possible?!  If you’re a Templar and your mortal enemies always wear hoods, then wouldn’t you find all hooded figures suspicious?  Or, you know, wouldn’t at least one person recall the faces of those who just ransacked a Templar facility?  So dumb.

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Movie Breakdown: Passengers

December 20, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Passengers seems to exist solely as a way to place hotties Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt onto the same the screen together, so I have no idea if it’s going to be any good at all.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Passengers is an odd film.  Its overall premise is fine – Jim Preston (Christ Pratt) is bumped out of suspended animation when his pod malfunctions just 30 years into a 120 year trip.  This is bad.  Not only because there’s no way he can go back to sleep, but because his pod is the only one that malfunctioned, which means he is set to spend the next 90 years alone.  He lasts on his own for a while (a year and some change), but eventually he gives in and wakes up the hilariously named Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence).  This is where the film gets odd.  Jim essentially kills Aurora by waking her up early, and even though he feels bad about it, that doesn’t stop him from wooing her and then treating their situation as though fate brought them together.  The film also never really makes it seem like that big of a deal.  Sure, his actions are presented in somewhat of a “it ain’t right” kind of way, but he and Aurora are so cute and perfect together that, like, it’s fine!  As OMC once sang, how bizarre.  Eventually the love stuff takes a backseat and the film attempts to be more of a sci-fi thing, but those parts are pretty silly and forgettable since they’re loaded with one-liners that feel like they should be delivered with either Lawrence or Pratt looking into the camera and winking.  I chuckled frequently.

Here’s the deal, Passengers isn’t terrible, it’s just a largely forgettable film with a strange message (do what you want regardless of the consequences because it’ll be fine in the end).  See it if you want something glossy with two very pretty faces and a spaceship (which I guess makes it sci-fi).

One Last Thought:

I just noticed that the poster mentions that you can see the film in 3D.  Don’t do that.  There’s absolutely nothing in it that warrants any type of 3D viewing (and the up-charge that will come with it).

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Movie Breakdown: Why Him?

December 19, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

The marketing for Why Him? has pretty much clued me in on what to expect.  There will be a lot of yelling, some gross stuff, a few funny bits and at least two heartfelt moments.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Why Him? pretty much fell in line with what I was expecting (see my pre-screening stance).  Ned (Bryan Cranston) and his wife Barb (Megan Mullally), along with their son Scott (Griffin Gluck), make the jump to California to meet their daughter Stephanie’s (Zoey Deutch) new squeeze, the very rich and obtuse Laird Mayhew (James Franco).  Naturally, things start out rough, stay rough and then go smooth right before the credits hit the screen.  You’ll be mildly entertained by some of it, and not surprised by any of it.

Here’s the deal though, Why Him? isn’t all that bad.  Ned, Barb and Scott’s wholesome qualities mixed with Laird and his staff’s ridiculous lifestyle often make for chuckle-worthy moments, and the “gross-out” bits weren’t as over the top as I was expecting.  I also steadily found myself appreciating the way the film is full of characters who want to make their awkward holiday situation work, but it’s their own insecurities that keep screwing everything up.  In most of these sort of forced-family movies it’s one person (usually the new boyfriend/girlfriend) in total screwball mode and they just can’t seem to do anything right.  Not in Why Him? though, everyone is a mess, and it’s generally fun watching each character work their way out of their shells.

Why Him? isn’t going to win any awards and honestly it’s one of those films that you’ll watch once and probably forget almost instantly, but it’s not terrible.  Get a little toasty and matinee it.

One Last Thought:

I don’t really get James Franco anymore.  His on-screen presence has become immensely wonky, and I can no longer tell if he’s being serious or just off his damn rocker.  It’s really weird.

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2016 SOTO Staff Picks

December 16, 2016

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Hey friends, as you surely know, I’m not the only one around these parts. Check out what the SOTO staff dug in 2016!  Enjoy.

2016 saw hitmakers make political statements, long rumored records finally drop, and legendary artists leave us with one last music statement before dying. From the grief-laden laments of Touche Amore’s epic Stage Four to the gospel-hop of Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book, these are the five records that stuck with me the most in 2016.

1. Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
2. Frank Ocean – Blond
3. Bon Iver – 22, A Million
4. Various Artists – Day of The Dead
5. Touche Amore – Stage Four

Metal. Get some.

1. Astronoid – Air
2. Nails – You Will Never Be One Of Us
3. Protest The Hero – Pacific Myth
4. Devin Townsend Project – Transcendence
5. Fleshgod Apocalypse – King

Hip hop is changing A LOT. 2016 saw those artists that play with other genres – EDM most notably, Afro-Caribbean rhythms, R&B, and gospel – come out with some great albums. Here are my favorites:

1. Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition
2. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here … Thank You 4 Your Service
3. Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book
4. Young Thug – No, My Name Is Jeffery
5. Noname – Telefone

If you don’t agree Teens of Denial is the greatest album of the year … I will fight you. That’s no lie.

1. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
2. Our Fertile Forever – WOMPS
3. David Bowie – Blackstar
4. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – A Man Alive
5. Angry Angles – Angry Angles

I could name 100 great records out this year. It really has been maybe the best year for records this century. These 5 have stayed highest in rotation throughout 2016.

1. 75 Dollar Bill – Wood/Metal/Plastic/Pattern/Rhythm/Rock
2. Steve Gunn – Eyes On The Lines
3. William Tyler-  Modern Country
4. Terry Allen – Lubbock (On Everything)
5. Shabaka And The Ancestors – Wisdom Of Elder

Ah, Jesus H. Christ, is it that time of year again?

Is it time for me to start trying to think back on everything I’ve listened to (and everything I haven’t) and try and discern some minute list of favorites so John Laird doesn’t fly to San Francisco and hit me with a stick?

So, it seems.

You know how when you’re young (i.e. under 30) and you listen to everything that comes out and when you look at your befuddled, grey-haired 30+ friends who’ve settled into arguing about which Rolling Stones’ album is the best, you think, “I’m never going to be like that, I’m going to listen to whatever’s on the radio because regardless of changing music trends, I’m always going to be hip enough to connect”? You know, that feeling? I’m going to pass along some bad news to you, idealistic, youthful music lover: you will become that salt-and-pepper elder, barely clinging to the music everybody once thought was cool.

Or, at least, I have become that person. I don’t know, blame it on the unending options presented by streaming services, blame it on the fact that for long portions of the year I actually appreciated silence, or just blame it on me running into a brick wall of not giving a shit, but, I didn’t spend a whole lot time this year digging through the new stuff. I listened to new music, but almost all of it was old to everyone else. I dug deep, but I went down instead of up. And though, yes, I’m sitting here struggling both to think of 5 albums I listened to on repeat and struggling while looking at my list of 5 Best Albums of the Year and not thinking, “Jesus, how boring have I become?”

But hey, the music I liked this year, I loved, and the process of going backwards into what came before was as enjoyable a listening experience as any I’ve ever had. So, well, I guess I’ll put on my sweater vest and lean back with piping hot cup of chamomile and maybe put on a Dylan album. The Nobel Prize Committee liked him. I’m sure he’ll be right up my dilapidated alley.

Oh, also, here’s 4 albums and a mixtape series that rattled my cobwebs this year.

Happy Holidays folks. Fuck Donald Trump.

The Best Albums of 2016:

5. The Life of Pablo / Kanye West

As much as I hate giving anything to Ye after he spent 15-minutes canoodling with President-Elect Donald Trump, this album is amazing. As a singular piece of music, it’s well, it’s all the genre-pushing, somehow-still-Billboard-friendly rap music he’s been doing all along. Kanye West defines what we listen to as hip-hop fans, and if he’s not defining it, he’s popularizing the genres he’s ripping off. Ultralight Beam featuring Chance the Rapper is the catchiest song of the year and features a verse from Chance better than anything off Coloring Book. Fade is like the soundtrack to the sexiest cross-fit class you’ve ever been in. Famous is a bigger, better song than the celebrity fist-fight it encouraged. This is the evolution of Kanye West, and as different as it sounds, the threads of everything that have come before it still lingers in its bloodstream. Beyond this though, Kanye’s seemingly bizarre release schedule of The Life of Pablo redefined the way a rap album, or any album can be released. He turned a chart-topping release into his own personal sonic playground, tweaking songs with each consecutive release on a different platform, turning it into a living, breathing piece of art unlike any album we’ve ever seen. Kanye, you’re a mess, but shit-on-a-stick, you’re still the most innovative thing rap’s got.

4. 22, A Milion / Bon Iver

If you, like me, fell hard for Bon Iver with the release of For Emma, Forever Ago and then found that his subsequent releases got further and further away from what you loved about the purity and sheer emotional beauty of that album, well, 22, A Million might be the salve for your wounded heart. Bon Iver, or Justin Vernon, isn’t an artist who’s going to linger around what made him famous, seeking to strike gold a second time. He’s going to push forward, out of need or out of curiosity, and continuing composing tracks that veer far and wide from what came before. That said, 22, A Million is an album that contains the through line of his first album – the sweeping yet intimate sonic landscape, the essential sadness haunting its core – but meshes it with a turn towards progress. What emerges is Bon Iver’s most complicated album to date, a churning collision of sounds and samples and Vernon’s crystalline voice that manages to be both jarring and beautiful in the same song. It isn’t an album to judge on a first listen, or even a second. It’s an album to play on repeat in the background, each song finding its way out of the noise and deep into the folds of your brain. It’s as exciting as For Emma was beautiful.

3. Singing Saw / Kevin Morby

Kevin Morby’s music is deceptively simple. This is a musician playing in a traditional sandbox, pulling from classic country and the folksier side of rock ‘n’ roll. Yet, his songs, his voice, the gentle play of his acoustic guitar pull deep at the listener’s emotional core. Singing Saw is a propulsively somber album, a collection of low-key songs that feels best suited to the cracked plains of the high desert. It is also an immensely catchy album, with Morby pulling on horns and choral arrangements (think Cohen’s Diamonds In The Mine but less gravelly) to ascend the musical worlds who’s shoulders he stands on. All of Morby’s stuff is great, but this is downright fantastic.

2. The Sun’s Tirade / Isaiah Rashad

It takes a while for things to click sometimes for a musician, regardless of talent. Singers have to find their voices, instrumentalists have to improve and gel and understand their role as musicians. Isaiah Rashad is one of these performers, a rapper who’s albums have always hinted at greatness, but never hit that elusive nail on the head. The Sun’s Tirade is his announcement that he has, finally, arrived. There’s a hint of Outkast in the smoothed out beats on this album, a touch of Andre 3000′s snarling pitch in Rashad’s delivery. But this is Rashad’s album, a collection of songs that straddles the line of street and art, an album that rambles and dead-ends, but always finds its way back to the laid-back flow of Rashad, and the jazz-flecked production found throughout. Step up to the podium, Isaiah, let people see how good you are.

1. Reverberation Radio

Sometime at the end of 2015, a friend introduced me to a mixtape series (purportedly compiled by members of The Allah-Lahs) called Reverberation Radio. I’m always looking out for ways to be introduced to older music outside of my own biases – twangy country – and I was immediately sucked in. The first mixtape featured staples of the art – Skip Spence, Link Wray – and artists I’d never knew even existed – Heron – and mind-bending tracks by artists I’d entirely forgotten – Norman Greenbaum! I spend the next year trying and failing to listen to every mixtape these crate-digging fools had put together. Stumbling in my quest, as I became obsessed with certain tracks, certain playlists, certain sounds, new pathways of musical enjoyment being discovered in my head. These aren’t mixtapes, they’re works of art, treasure maps leading you to previously undiscovered treasures. I’ve spent more time listening to Reverberation Radio then I have anything else this year, and every moment has been worth it. Spend some time sifting through the mixtapes (260 and rising) on your holiday break, it’s a rabbit-hole you’ll be ecstatic to have fallen into.

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Movie Breakdown: La La Land

December 14, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Even if La La Land wasn’t riding an enormous wave of positive buzz, I’d still be excited to see the film because it’s a musical directed by Damien Chazelle, who did the rather excellent Whiplash, and it stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, both of whom are really pretty and charismatic.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Oh boy.  La La Land is a gem.  It features Mia (Emma Stone), a young lady who works a dead-end job and endlessly auditions for roles in attempt to “make it” as an actress, and a fella named Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a musician who hopes to save jazz by opening up his own club.  They meet, it doesn’t go well, then they meet again and so many sparks fly about that it made me worry my theater might catch on fire.  After that there’s love, music, hope, successes, failures, harsh realizations and more that fill the screen and swallow you whole.  Stone and Gosling definitely deserve a big high five for their performances in La La Land (neither could possibly be more charming and/or genuine), but I think it’s director Damien Chazelle that really should be showered with adoration.  His film feels and looks like an old Hollywood throwback, but it’s a modern story with modern characters and modern ideals.  This will sound odd, but it reminds of the approach that James Gunn took with Guardians of the Galaxy.  That movie looks and feels like an old school adventure flick with its classic rock tunes and whatnot, but it’s total new sci-fi, comic book nerdiness at its core.  Same sort of thing with La La Land – Chazelle’s film may feature a lot of whimsical singing and dancing (all of it is really well done, by the way) and it may in general present a classic version of Hollywood, but at the end of the day it’s a modern love story that aims to provide a dash of nostalgia as it shoves you into the future.

See La La Land immediately.  Even if you don’t like musicals, I promise you’ll dig it.

One Last Thought:

Ryan Gosling seems to largely play Ryan Gosling in a lot of movies, but somehow it works for him and doesn’t come off as flat and uninteresting.  Now that’s the life!  “The thing about this new character is that, well … it’s just me again.”  Then you toss ‘em a wink and stroll right home or wherever witchy charmers like Ryan go.

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Top 25 Albums Of 2016

December 12, 2016

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Alright friends, here’s my full album list.  Unlike my Top 50 Songs of 2016, there are Austin acts here. As always, this isn’t some sort of “critical” list, it’s just the albums that I jammed the most this year.  Enjoy.

PS – Here’s a playlist of all the albums on Spotify!

25) Deftones – Gore

While I’ve always liked the Deftones, I haven’t legit loved an album of theirs since 2000′s PonyGore wrapped me up though – it’s really well crafted and features some great songs.  I went back to it often in 2016.

24) Nothing – Tired Of Tomorrow

At first I was slightly let down by Nothing’s sophomore effort, but after I spent some quality time with it I became pretty damn attached.  If you’re into shoegaze, then you need to listen to Tired Of Tomorrow.

23) Explosions In The Sky – The Wilderness

I love me some Explosions In The Sky.  By the way, my instrumental album rankings for 2016 go like this: 1) EITS’ The Wilderness, 2) Russian Circles’ Guidance and then 3) Mono’s Requiem For Hell.

22) Tancred – Out Of The Garden

There isn’t a song on Tancred’s Out Of The Garden that isn’t infectious.  Definitely a must-listen for fans of 90s indie/pop rock.

21) Thao And The Get Down Stay Down – A Man Alive

Thao continues to be one of my favorite singer/songwriters of all time.  I just connect with everything she churns out.

20) Bleached – Welcome The Worms

Bleached took a step away from surf rock on Welcome The Worms and it turned out to be a great move for them.  This album is so energetic.

19) Yung – A Youthful Dream

This kid – 22-year-old Mikkel Holm Silkjær – out of Denmark really impressed me with his debut as YungA Youthful Dream is noisy in all of the right ways.

18) A Giant Dog – Pile

Austin’s very own A Giant Dog have long been a favorite of mine, so I love that they totally crushed it on Pile, their debut for Merge Records.

17) Savages – Adore Life

I was obsessed with Savages’ Adore Life for the first few months of the year.  Eventually I was able to wiggle myself out of its intense pull, mostly.

16) Preoccupations – Self Titled

Just in case you forgot, Viet Cong is now Preoccupations.  In regards to their self titled effort, I love that the majority of it sounds like Interpol on artsy steroids.

15) Cross Record – Wabi Sabi

Wabi Sabi is a rather ethereal effort from Cross Record, a newer band out of Austin.  The whole thing is really damn good and it totally turned me into a big fan of theirs.

14) The Hotelier – Goodness

For those of you that love anthemic rock (with a dash of emo on top), here’s Goodness from The Hotelier.  I passionately rocked this album a lot in my car.

13) Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing

There isn’t a single song on Frankie Cosmos’ Next Thing that isn’t soaked in sincerity.  She has one of those voices that makes everything feel so very genuine.

12) Terry Malts – Lost At The Party

Any time Terry Malts put out an album, you can count on it being high up on my list.  They write super catchy stuff and in general are reliably awesome.

11) Cymbals Eat Guitars – Pretty Years

Pretty Years is one hell of an album.  At one point will the masses open up to Cymbals Eat Guitars?  Those guys should be playing huge rooms.

10) White Denim – Stiff

Stiff is another high quality set of jams from White Denim.  They remain a really big favorite of mine.

09) Whitney – Light Upon The Lake

Light Upon The Lake is quite possibly the most accessible album that I came across this year.  Seriously, there’s not a single track on Whitney’s debut that isn’t instantly likeable.

08) Basketball Shorts – Hot And Ready

Hot And Ready from Austin’s Basketball Shorts was a big go-to for me in 2016.  It’s 20-ish minutes of pop punk perfection.

07) Angel Olsen – My Woman

My Woman made me go from liking Angel Olsen to loving her.  What a next level effort.

06) Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book

For a while there, I only listened to Chance The Rapper’s Coloring Book.  It’s an inspired, energetic effort that features a lot of great songwriting.  It’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here.

05) Kanye West – The Life Of Pablo

Kanye’s The Life Of Pablo is a manic listen with a lot of layers.  He sure does have a lot going on in his head.

04) The Coathangers – Nosebleed Weekend

The Coathangers really hit a home run with Nosebleed Weekend.  It has a ton of great hooks and just the right amount of snarl.

03) Frank Ocean – Blonde

Frank Ocean’s Blonde is a hypnotic experience.  I’m not even sure how often I’ve listened to the entire thing after only intending to revisit one particular song.

02) Car Seat Headrest – Teens In Denial

They may not sound alike at all, but Car Seat Headrest’s Teens In Denials is like Frank Ocean’s Blonde – they’re both really hypnotic listens.  That Will Toledo is one hell of a songwriter.

01) White Lung – Paradise

Of all the EPs and LPs I listened to 2016, White Lung’s Paradise is the one that I jammed the most.  It’s loud and heavy and the best modern rock album I’ve come across in years. Congrats to the band for nailing it and grabbing the top spot on my list.

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Movie Breakdown: Domain (Noah)

December 6, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

When you get at-home-screeners that you’ve never heard of before, it’s a toss-up. I will say that for the most part the at-home-screeners that fall into the sci-fi genre usually have a better chance of being okay.

Post-Screening Ramble:

There’s a real history of low-budget, high-quality science-fiction in the cinematic world. Films that manage to overstep their paltry financials to shine as both idea-heavy cinema and engaging stories with solid acting and decent enough cinematography. Science-fiction, and genre narratives in general, seem born to be produced on the cheap (putting aside the recent outburst of extremely costly, computer-graphic heavy films and television shows), and Nathaniel Atcheson’s Domain fits that bill. In the future, a horrible virus has wiped out much of the human population and the rest have been placed in singular rooms (to avoid the spread of disease) where they are allowed to communicate – via screen – with six other survivors. But, as you may well have guessed, things are not what they seem. The film’s characters, each named after their location when the virus hit, interact through the “social network” of Domain, a sort of seven-person democracy, and when they vote someone off the proverbial “island,” well, things go badly. The enjoyment of the film rests in the unveiling of what exactly is going on, and Atcheson pulls back the curtain just slowly enough that by the time all is revealed, we care enough about the characters to actually give a shit about their fates. And the reveal, not terrible, is marred by the fact that after six years (the length of time these characters are in Domain together) it would seem that very few secrets would exist between them. What Domain feels like, and this is a compliment, is a pretty good episode of Twilight Zone or better yet, Black Mirror. A cast of solid actors who help bring a world, briefly, to life, just enough to make a point, create some tension, and then move along.

One Last Thought:

I spent this entire film thinking that Sonja Sohn was Angela Bassett in makeup. Honestly, they’re uncannily similar in appearance and it sort of clouded my viewing of the film because I kept wondering, “how did they get Angela Bassett in this movie?” It’s not her though, uh uh, but hey, Sonja Sohn is good, too.

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Movie Breakdown: Miss Sloane

December 5, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Jessica Chastain takes on gun control in Miss Sloane!  Am I ready for this?  Probably not.  But I’m going in anyways.

Post-Screening Ramble:

If you’re into legal thrillers (Michael Clayton, The Firm, Pelican Brief, A Few Good Men, etc.), then you’re going to love Miss Sloane.  The titular character (a fiery and very in charge Jessica Chastain) is a lobbyist – seemingly the world’s best – and the film begins with her ditching her fancy (i.e. evil) firm for a boutique (i.e. morally pure) group in an attempt to pass a bill that will impose regulations on firearms.  From there a lot of sass is thrown around, unrealistic things happen repeatedly, and then the film ends in a way that would warrant at least one really nice high five from John Grisham himself.  It is undoubtedly a largely silly ride, one that often had me chuckling and rolling my eyes, but I did have a good time with the film.  Chastain is clearly having a blast in it, and I also appreciated the way that director John Madden (he made Shakespeare In Love way back) keeps things tense and occasionally twists the story just enough to make you think that all of your assumptions could in fact be very wrong.

Miss Sloane isn’t a great film and it certainly isn’t going to win any awards for realism, but it is entertaining.  Catch it if you’re in the mood for something with a legal thriller lean to it.

One Last Thought:

I think it’s time for Hollywood to rally up a Legal Cinematic Universe.  It would feature the world’s best lawyers and lobbyists and whatnot, and after a series of really wordy origin stories, there would then be a team-up film where they’d have to battle some sort of all-encompassing social injustice (like the band Twenty One Pilots).

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Top 50 Songs Of 2016: Part 5

December 2, 2016

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Here’s the end of my “songs I liked a whole lot this year” list.  Enjoy.

PS – Just a reminder that there are no Austin acts to be found in any part of this list.  I’m going to be doing a two-part year-ender via 101X Homegrown (my radio show) that will detail my favorite local tracks.  Look for Part 1 to air on 12/11, and then Part 2 on 12/18.

Part 1 is HERE.
Part 2 is HERE.
Part 3 is HERE.
Part 4 is HERE.

PPS – I got a ton of take down notices, so you’ll have to listen via Spotify.

10)  :P.O.S. – Wave (Featuring Moncelas Boston And Sophia Eris):  P.O.S. didn’t put out an album this year, but he did release a handful of singles.  This slick-sounding effort finished the year as my favorite of the bunch.

09)  :White Lung – Kiss Me When I Bleed:  White Lung’s Mish Barber-Way commands all with her vocal work in this heavy track that aims to pummel.  Turn it up.

08)  :Chance The Rapper – Angels (Featuring Saba):  Chance The Rapper and Saba are as pleasant as can be in this joyous track – it’s infectious stuff.

07)  :Whitney – Golden Days:  This song from Whitney was a big go-to for me every time I needed a breather in 2016.  It’s so damn accessible and laid back.

06)  :Coathangers – Squeeki Tiki:  Admittedly, a part of me couldn’t pass up the opportunity to put a squeaky toy-enhanced track in the top 10 of my year-end song list.  Also, it’s scuzzy and creative and perfect and deserving of everyone’s love.  Thanks for the jam, Coathangers!

05)  :Shura – What’s It Gonna Be?:  This one from Shura is easily my favorite straight up pop tune of 2016.  It may also be the winner of this year’s “song that John poorly sang-a-long to the most” award.

04)  :Cymbals Eat Guitars – Have a Heart:  If I were to rank out every Cymbals Eat Guitars song, I’d be tempted to put this one in the top spot.  What a track.

03)  :Frank Ocean – Solo:  This is one seriously hypnotic effort from Frank Ocean.  That fella is a hell of a crooner.

02)  :Angel Olsen – Shut Up Kiss Me:  Every time I hear this song I just want to high five Angel Olsen and go rollerskating.  I love the way she pulls no punches here.

01)  :Kanye West – Ultralight Beam:  Is this song absolutely ridiculous?  Yes.  I mean, it’s Kanye West, so of course it’s ridiculous.  It also happens to be amazing though, and I love it.  Definitely the song I blasted the most in 2016 … probably because it was the most ridiculous year ever and I needed the right song to accompany me through it.

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Top 50 Songs Of 2016: Part 4

December 1, 2016

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And the list continues on.  Enjoy.

Part 1 is HERE.
Part 2 is HERE.
Part 3 is HERE.

PS – I got a ton of take down notices, so you’ll have to listen via Spotify.

20)  :Thee Oh Seees – Plastic Plant:  Out of all the music that Thee Oh Sees released in 2016 (two albums worth, to be exact), this track is my favorite.  Total jam.

19)  :King Khan – Never Hold On:  The normally noisy King Khan contributed this gem to the soundtrack for The Invaders.  He should do more slow burners.

18)  :Hazel English – Make It Better:  Here’s one that I’ve been glued to since I first heart it.  There’s just something hypnotic about Hazel English.

17)  :Chook Race – Sometimes:  If you’re all about jangly pop, then this one from Chook Race is a must-listen for you.

16)  :Tangerine – Sunset:  This infectious pop tune from Tangerine is totally something that more people should have been yammering about in 2016.

15)  :Terry Malts – Used To Be:  I’ve jammed the hell out of this Terry Malts song.  Those guys sure know how to write a hook.

14)  :Lucy Dacus – I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore:  I believe this one from Lucy Dacus was actually put out in late 2015, but I didn’t catch it until the re-release this year.  So it counts!  Anyhow, it’s a stellar track that drips with sincerity.

13)  :Car Seat Headrest – Does It Feel Good (To Say Goodbye):  This song by Car Seat Headrest is from the soundtrack for a short film called Loudini.  It makes me want so sit on a porch somewhere with a bottle of whiskey.

12)  :Nothing – ACD (Abscessive Compulsive Disorder):  If you still need to get in some quality shoegazing before 2016 fully comes to a close, I highly recommend doing it with this Nothing song blasting in your headphones.

11)  :Fujiya And Miyagi – Serotonin Rushes:  You’re dead if you can listen to this Fujiya And Miyagi track and not want to dance or at least smile.

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