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Top Films Of 2016

January 13, 2017

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JOHN’S TOP 10 FILMS OF 2016

All in all, I saw 109 new releases in 2016.  Below you’ll find all of the ones I liked (roughly 40% of what I saw), and one in particular that I loathed more than any other.  Take a look, make a note or two, then go watch something.

Side note, I’ve gone back and forth quite a bit trying to decide whether or not 2016 was a good one for film, and I’ve finally decided that it was a … “middle of the road” kind of year.  Noah expands on this fairly well down below.

10) Manchester By The Sea

This is not a film that I’m in a hurry to see again, but I do think it’s a truly fantastic effort.  Both Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams are as good as they’ve ever been in anything.  Also, it’s just impossible to not greatly appreciate this immensely tragic film’s sharp sense of humor.

Did It Make Me Cry: Yes.  Oh my, that one scene between Affleck and Williams ripped me up real good.

09) Jackie

I firmly believe that Jackie is the best thing that Natalie Portman has done since Black Swan.  She’s 100% fascinating to watch as the Jackie that existed both before and after JFK was assassinated.  The movie itself is also just crafted in an interesting manner.  Good on director Pablo Larrain.

Did It Make Me Cry: No.  But I did gasp in horror a few times.

08) Pete’s Dragon

Somehow someway this film came and went without much fanfare, and that’s just a shame.  It’s funny, heartwarming, wholesome and just about perfect.

Did It Make Me Cry: Yes.  Like a damn baby.

07) The Edge Of Seventeen

Just as I was ready to give up on post-True Grit Hailee Steinfeld, she goes and thoroughly impresses here in this very hilarious and genuine flick.  If you’re at all a fan of coming of age films, then you need to see The Edge Of Seventeen.  Pair it up with Superbad and spend an evening laughing and remembering what was like to be a teen.

Did It Make Me Cry: Maybe a little.

06) Captain America: Civil War

While Civil War is somewhat bland in the cinematography department, it is a very entertaining film.  Also, just like the previous Captain America entry, it actually shifts the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe instead of just poking around and hinting at changes to come.  I love that about it.

Did It Make Me Cry: No.  Well, perhaps a bit when Spider-Man turned out to be rad.  Oh, and when Black Panther showed up.

05) Moonlight

Like Manchester By The Sea, Moonlight is a great film that I’m not exactly in a rush to see again.  What a beautiful but tough to watch effort from director Barry Jenkins.

Did It Make Me Cry: Yeah man.  Yeah.

04) The Handmaiden

I love me some Chan-wook Park.  His latest is whimsical and sexy and twisted and just an all-around delight.

Did It Make Me Cry: No, but I should have.

03) Hunt For The Wilderpeople

Taika Waititi’s Hunt For The Wilderpeople is a damn gem that’s very funny and heartfelt.  Here’s hoping Julian Dennison continues to pop up in stuff.  The kid has the goods.

Did It Make Me Cry: Yeah mate.  Yeah.

02) Elle

I saw Paul Verhoeven’s latest during Fantastic Fest (back in September) and I still occasionally find myself thinking about it.  No other film in 2016 challenged me like this one.

Did It Make Me Cry: No, but holy shit did I feel weird laughing so much.

01) La La Land

I’m not exactly what you would call a big fan of musicals, so you know I mean it when I say that La La Land swept me off my feet.  It’s so damn enjoyable!  And charming!  And smart!  Way to hit a home run, Damien Chazelle.

Did It Make Me Cry: Yes.  That ending.  Geeze.

Just for fun, here are entries 20-11:

20) Split
19) The Neon Demon
18) 45 Years
17) 10 Cloverfield Lane
16) Moana
15) The Nice Guys
14) Deadpool
13) Midnight Special
12) Arrival
11) Zootopia

Bonus Honorable Mentions: Zoology, Star Trek Beyond, Batman Vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice (Ultimate Edition), Rogue One, Hell Or High Water, Allied, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, Doctor Strange, Colossal, The Autopsy Of Jane Doe, The Eyes Of My Mother, Don’t Breathe, Kubo And The Two Strings, Captain Fantastic, Swiss Army Man, Finding Dory, Maggie’s Plan, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, The Meddler, The Jungle Book, Sausage Party, Demolition, Young Offenders.

PS – If you looked at this and scowled because it doesn’t included Green Room, The Lobster or The Witch, it’s because I saw those in 2015, so they made that year-end list.

PSx2 – No, I didn’t see Sing Street. I will eventually, though.

PSx3 – My worst film of the year nod goes to Warcraft.  What a disaster.

NOAH’S TOP 10 FILMS OF 2016

For every film I absolutely loved in 2016, there was one I hated with equal fervor. Part of this seems to be a sort of deadening of the middle class of films. There is a dearth of solid mid-level pictures, a scant amount of films that may not hit every note pitch perfectly, but still manage to entertain, amuse, and wring some emotion from my dead, dead heart. These films have evaporated, replaced by enormous CG-shit shows and braindead comedies aimed at focus-group tested demographics. We continue to lower our expectations of what good film is, and because of that, money hungry studios continue to force feed us sub-standard films.

But, looking back, 2016 was a good, if not great, year for movies, big and small. Sure, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Boo Yah, Fuck The World, Juggalos Forever nearly nut-punched my love of movies right out my b-hole, but the smaller films – no matter how much hype was smeared on them – managed to stand strong in the shadow of some truly enormous dumps.

10. April And The Extraordinary World

In an alternate future where the Industrial Revolution never ended, a girl, her talking cat, and an old man must evade evil scientists to find her parents. It’s a magical, wholly original piece of animation, with every frame holding a marvel for the human eye.

09. Arrival

Denis Villeneuve is a cinematic master. Arrival is a visually stunning film about a grieving woman’s linguistic interaction with octopus aliens. Amy Adams is spectacular as the linguist, and Villeneuve proves that not every alien invasion movie needs to be about killing the shit out of stuff.

08. Moonlight

The story – told in three sections – of a black kid’s painful acceptance of his own sexuality is striking across all platforms. A small, beautiful film that uses a cast of relative unknowns (for the most part) to explore sexuality in the poor streets of Miami.

07. Sausage Party

I trust Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg with any genre after Sausage Party. This exceptionally crass (the two minute food orgy scene at the end might be the raunchiest bit of film this year), pointedly offensive take on a Pixar film not only gives the goods in Rogen-esque dick and poop jokes, it also takes on organized religion like no other animated film before it.

06. Zootopia

This is an animated buddy comedy about a talking bunny cop and a sleazy fox that manages to explore the issues of race in America within the perfectly executed structure of a detective story.  Do I need to say more?

05. Midnight Special

Mr. Nichols plays in the genre sandbox with his own realistically emotional take on the “kid-with-super-powers” film. Every character in this film pops off the screen, with the story evoking the very best of Spielberg’s Amblin years.

04. Captain America: Civil War

Called it Avengers 2.5 if you want, but this stylish, enormously budgeted, super-hero brawl is somehow both emotionally sound and the best big budget film of the year. Also, Spider-Man is finally cool, and Black Panther proves he always was. Marvel, continue to do things this well, please.

03. Green Room

You want a home invasion film set in an abandoned skinhead night club in the dark, twisty forests of the far Northwest? Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room is just that. Patrick Stewart plays refined evil as it’s meant to be played, Imogen Poots is an animal unleashed and Anton Yelchin’s performance only makes me miss him more.

02. Manchester by the Sea

I didn’t think anyone was coming back from Lonergan’s disastrous Margaret. But, hey, never doubt the man who directed You Can Count On Me. Casey Affleck’s subtle, nuanced performance as a grieving brother who has to take up responsibilities he’s uniquely unprepared for anchors a film that discusses the rippling effects of grief. It is somehow laugh-out-loud funny and emotionally devastating in one, somber breath.

01. La La Land

For a man that detests all but the most classic of musicals, to anoint La La Land – a film steeped in its love of the musicals of the 40s and 50s – is saying a lot. But Chazelle proves Whiplash was not a flash in the pan, crafting a film that pulls the classic musical into the 21st century, with two stars – Gosling and Stone – never shining brighter.

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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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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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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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Top 50 Songs Of 2016: Part 3

November 30, 2016

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I was going to stop at #31, but I figured that was silly.  So, the list continues on!  Enjoy.

Part 1 is HERE.
Part 2 is HERE.

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

30)  :Mystery Lights – Follow Me Home:  Daptone launched a rock imprint – WICK – in 2016, and this Mystery Lights single was its first release.  I dig how loud and sloppy it is.

29)  :Weaves – Coo Coo:  If you like things that are clever and quirky, then this song from Weaves will delight you.

28)  :Twin Peaks – Walk To The One You Love:  This might be my favorite Twin Peaks track.  It’s such a breezy slice of garage pop.

27)  :Frankie Cosmos – On The Lips:  I’m all about Greta Kline (aka Frankie Cosmos) and her rather sincere voice here.  Also, I appreciate that this song mentions David Blaine.

26)  :The Tallest Man On Earth – Time Of The Blue:  Kristian Matsson (aka The Tallest Man On Earth) cut this late one night while out on the road.  I think it’s one of his better songs.

25)  :Field Mouse – The Mirror:  Mostly 90s, sort of emo, entirely great.  That’s probably the best way to describe this one from Field Mouse.

24)  :The Hotelier – Piano Player:  The Hotelier offer up a lot of song here (roughly six swirling minutes worth), but thankfully it’s a great ride that’s totally worth the time and attention it requires.

23)  :Tancred – Control Me:  Here’s one of my favorite 90s-inspired tracks of 2016.  It’s just about perfect.  Good work, Tancred.

22)  :LIV – Wings of Love:  This is a fantastic Fleetwood Mac-like effort from LIV, a “supergroup” that features Lykke Li, Miike Snow’s Andrew Wyatt and Pontus Winnberg, Peter Bjorn & John’s Björn Yttling and producer Jeff Bhasker.

21)  :Priests – JJ:  Frontwoman Katie Alice Greer destroys in this Priests track.  That voice of hers is just so very rad.

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Top 50 Songs Of 2016: Part 2

November 29, 2016

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Here are more songs I liked in 2016.  Enjoy.

Part 1 of this list is HERE.

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

40)  :The xx – On Hold:  I know this track from The xx is only a few weeks old, but I’ve been obsessed with it and I just had to include it on my year-list.  It’s intoxicating.

39)  :Charli XCX – Vroom Vroom:  Charli XCX cranked this out in conjunction with Sophie, and it’s just the most goddamn ridiculous thing.  Please be sure to listen to it as loud as possible.

38)  :Tobacco – Gods in Heat:  I’ve had this Tobacco song on repeat for months.  It’s fairly weird and oddly sexy (it is called Gods in Heat, after all), and I just love it.

37)  :Chaos Emeralds – Animal Kingdom:  I’m not sure why this song from Chaos Emeralds isn’t all over the radio.  Talk about accessible and catchy.

36)  :Thao And The Get Down Stay Down – Nobody Dies:  Here’s one from Thao that I revisited a lot this year.  It’s an attention-grabber.

35)  :Bleached – Keep on Keepin’ On:  This song from Bleached really makes me want to get up and move and because of this it’s what I’m going to hit play on if someone ever starts chasing me.

34)  :The Julie Ruin – I Decide:  If you ask me, this is the best track off of The Julie Ruin’s 2016 release, Hit Reset.  On another note, Kathleen Hanna’s voice is still rad.

33)  :Phantogram – Cruel World:  Phantogram went for (and achieved) bigger and better things in 2016, but this track sounds like the old them and it’s what stuck with me.  Go figure.

32)  :The Range – Florida:  The Range really nailed it here.  I advise that you slap on headphones before you hit play.

31)  :Sheer Mag – Can’t Stop Fighting:  I’m starting to feel like it’s no longer possible for me to do a year-end song list that doesn’t include Sheer Mag.  Here’s hoping they keep on killing it.

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Top 50 Songs Of 2016: Part 1

November 28, 2016

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Hey there!  It’s time to start running down my favorite songs and albums (look for this list next week) of the year.  Below you’ll find Part 1 of my Top 50 Songs of 2016 list.  It (and every part that’s coming after today) consists of tracks that I found myself frequently revisiting throughout the year.  Simple!  Enjoy.

PS – One thing is a little different this year – I will not be including any Austin acts in this singles list.  I’m going to be doing a two-part year-ender via 101X Homegrown (my radio show) that will detail my favorite Austin tracks.  Look for Part 1 to air on 12/11, and then Part 2 on 12/18.

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

50)  :Sia – Waving Goodbye (Produced by Diplo):  When I saw (and loved) The Neon Demon, I found myself really digging this anthemic number as it blasted over the credits.  Oddly enough, I didn’t even realize it was by Sia until I got home and looked it up.

49)  :Big Baby D.R.A.M. – Cute:  This is such a silly song by D.R.A.M., but it’s so damn catchy that I’ve been unable to escape it for most of 2016.  Just let it take you.

48)  :Polica – Lately:  If you ask me, this is the best song off of Polica’s latest album, United Crushers.  It’s hazy and sparse and the line “seems like we’re too comfortable in love” is a sharp one.

47)  :Father John Misty – Real Love Baby:  Whether you’ve ever fully boarded the Father John Misty hype train or not, it’s hard to deny just how charming this track is on all fronts.

46)  :Pity Sex – Bonhomie:  The boy/girl vocals in this Pity Sex track are so on point.  As is the 90s-lean it carries.  And well, everything else about it.

45)  :Screaming Females – Skeleton:  I sure do love me some Screaming Females.  This track was rightfully cut from 2015′s Rose Mountain, but I’m glad to have it now – it’s unhinged and great.

44)  :LVL UP – Hidden Driver:  You could criticize this LVL UP effort as being too Neutral Milk Hotel-esque, but that would be silly.  It’s just a great song.  Turn it up.

43)  :Forth Wanderers – Slop:  This one from Forth Wanderers has a meandering arrangement and lyrics loaded with obviously-youthful musings – “I love too much/Too hurt this bad” – but I dig it.

42)  :Frightened Rabbit – Death Dream:  I loved Frightened Rabbit, then I veered away, and now this song has brought me back to them.  That’s how stellar it is.

41)  :The Blow – Think About Me:  There’s an early-era Rilo Kiley vibe on display here that I’ve been caught up since I first heard this song.  Thanks for that, The Blow.

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In Review: Austin Film Festival 2016

October 27, 2016

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Hey there!  Down below you’ll find little descriptions of the five films I saw at this year’s Austin Film Festival.  I was hoping to see 10-ish movies, but a busy schedule and other details kept me from that goal.  Oh well.  At least I enjoyed what I saw, yeah?

Loving

Plot:  It’s the 50′s.  Mildre Jeter is a black woman, Richard Loving is a white man.  They’re not supposed to be together, but they are.  This film details what eventually led to the Supreme Court’s decision to hold laws that prohibit interracial marriage as unconstitutional.

Mini-Review:  Loving is the latest gem from writer/director Jeff Nichols.  Because of the tale its telling, I figured it would be full of big, sweeping dramatic moments set in a courtroom (or something equally grand), but it’s actually a very sweet and intimate love story.  See it as soon as you can.

Desierto

Plot:  An unarmed group of men and women attempt to make their way from Mexico to the US.  It goes as planned until someone starts gunning them down.

Mini-Review:  Jonas Cuaron’s Desierto is essentially an R-rated slice of survival horror that’s coated with a political message.  Some of it works, some of it doesn’t.  Overall, I liked it.

Jackie

Plot:  This film follows Jackie Kennedy during the days after the assassination of JFK.

Mini-Review:  Oh my.  Jackie blew me away.  Natalie Portman is incredible in it (just give her all the awards now), and the way director Pablo Larrain details the post-assassination days and Jackie’s transition from wide-eyed First Lady to battle-scarred woman is masterful.  I can’t wait to see it again.

The Edge of Seventeen

Plot:  Nadine is having a hard time.  Partly because being a teen isn’t easy, mostly because her best (and really, only) friend just started dating her old brother.

Mini-Review: The Edge of Seventeen is the best R-rated coming of age movie I’ve seen since Superbad.  It’s hilarious, sincere and Hailee Steinfeld is perfect in it.  I fully expect it to be a huge hit.

My Scientology Movie

Plot: Louis Theroux sets out to make a film about the Church of Scientology.  Somewhere along the way, the Chuch starts making a film about him.

Mini-Review:  If you saw Going Clear on HBO, then there’s no real reason to watch My Scientology Movie.  Louis Theroux talks to a lot of the same people and he doesn’t really uncover any new info.  With that being said, his doc is funny, and I had pretty good time watching him befuddle members of the Church of Scientology.

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In Review: Fantastic Fest 2016

October 10, 2016

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Fantastic Fest has come and gone and – as always – it was a damn good time.  Below you’ll find mini-reviews (divided into various categories) of the 18 films I saw this year.  Make some notes and then seek out what sounds interesting to you!

PS – Austin Film Fest is up next.  Look out for that recap soon.

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NO, NO, NO
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The Greasy Strangler

Plot:  “Brayden fears his first love affair is turning his father into a bloodthirsty monster who’s covered in grease and has an 18-inch penis that looks like a dead chicken.”  This is Fantastic Fest’s description.  It’s super accurate, so I figured it was best to just lift it.

Mini-Review:  I went into The Greasy Strangler under the assumption that it would be wildly dumb but fun.  Well, it’s certainly a dumb movie, but I didn’t find it to be particularly fun.  It’s an obtuse film, one that’s obnoxious just to be obnoxious, and the one time I did laugh I immediately felt like I had turned my back on all that’s good in the world.

We Are The Flesh

Plot:  Two young adults find their way into an abandoned warehouse.  Or so they think it’s abandoned.  There’s actually an older fella inside who is up to … well, I never quite figured that out.  Anyways, the three of them eventually engage in a whole lot of really weird shit.

Mini-Review:  About 30 minutes into We Are The Flesh the guy next to me hopped up and never returned.  I don’t blame him.  It’s a bizarre film and I couldn’t at all figure out where it was going or what it was doing.  Hell, I’m not even sure why I bothered staying.  You should skip this one unless you’re one of those people who likes films that no one else does.

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STRONG START, WEAK FINISH
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My Entire High School Sinking Into The Sea

Plot:  An aspiring journalist finds himself in an interesting predicament – his high school has broken off from the mainland and is drifting out to sea.

Mini-Review:  Throughout the first half of this animated flick (the first from graphic novelist Dash Shaw) I was fully charmed and entertained by its big name voices – Jason Schwartzman, Reggie Watts, Susan Sarandon, Lena Dunham, Maya Rudolph and John Cameron Mitchell – and their dry-witted characters.  Then things started to stretch on for far too long and eventually I found myself not really paying attention at all.

A Dark Song

Plot:  A woman recruits an occultist to perform a ritual.  It’s not any usual ritual though, it’s one that will take months and months to complete.

Mini-Review: A Dark Song does a good job of creeping along and making you feel as anxious and impatient as the woman who’s waiting for her ritual to be completed, but where it should reward you with a glorious (or at least scary) payoff, it pulls its punches and whiffs on delivering anything memorable.  Too bad.

The Bad Batch

Plot:  Set in what appears to be the future, a young lady is left in a cannibal-infested desert after being designated as “bad batch” by society.  While there nothing good happens.

Mini-Review:  Ana Lily Amirpour’s The Bad Batch is her follow up to the well-received A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night.  I went in hoping for a fantastically disgusting cannibal flick, and as I watched the very pretty Suki Waterhouse get a couple of limbs graphically hacked off, it seemed as though I was going to get what I wanted.  Unfortunately, Amirpour quickly ditches the horror angle for some kind of coming of age, love story thingy, and I stopped caring before the halfway mark.

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YEAH, OK
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Belief: The Possession Of Janet Moses

Plot:  Some time ago a woman named Janet Moses was killed during an improved exorcism ceremony.  Time to find out why such a thing happened!

Mini-Review:  This documentary covers a wildly interesting set of events, but it does so in a fairly mediocre way.  I actually think it would have been a lot better had there just been talking heads and some photos, but instead the director, David Stubbs, uses actors and dialogue based off of transcripts.  This really gives the doc an unfortunate made for TV feel.  Still, it’s one hell of a story, and therefore I think it’s worth seeing.

Headshot

Plot:  A guy wakes up in a hospital and can’t remember who he is or how he got there.  Eventually he discovers that he’s really good at punching and kicking people, and this leads to a lot violence.

Mini-Review:  When I saw that Headshot had Iko Kuwais (from The Raid flicks) in it, I got really excited.  He’s awesome!  This film, however, is not particularly great.  Sure, it has some entertaining spots and a handful of martial arts bits that made me want to cheer, but overall it’s just got a flat feel to it.  Seek it out if you’re a Kuwais fan, but keep your expectations in check.

Science Fiction Volume One: The Osiris Child

Plot:  Set on a far off planet, an officer must abandon his post on a safe and super comfy space station in order to get to the surface so that he can save his daughter from a group of rampaging monsters and the enormous bomb that’s meant to exterminate the group of rampaging monsters.

Mini-Review:  Despite its totally dumb title and a slight made for TV feel, I dug this film.  It does a good job of world building, the characters are interesting, and I walked out legit excited about where the story might go next.  So why didn’t I really like it?  Because it’s edited in a rather disjointed, distracting way.  Someone should re-cut it ASAP.

The Dwarves Must Be Crazy

Plot:  A bunch of dwarves eat some glowing bugs, and then their heads pop off.  This scares people.

Mini-Review:  Unsurprisingly, The Dwarves Must Be Crazy is one one of the odder films I’ve seen in a while.  Not only is it full of slapstick humor (hitting, farting, etc.), but there are all kinds of Thai spirits and stuff that I know nothing about.  So, it made me feel both like an immature kid and a uncultured fool.  Neat.

The Playground

Plot:  Two pre-teens do something real bad.

Mini-Review:  Bartosz M. Kowalski’s latest film features some really graphic, shocking imagery, and it isn’t for everyone.  Actually, I wouldn’t say it’s for anyone, as it’s not something that any normal person would ever want to watch.  I will say this though, long after the credits had rolled, I felt a tinge of support for the film and the way that it tries to remind you that less than ideal personal situations can drive people – even children – to do terrible things.

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YES, YES, YES
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The Young Offenders

Plot:  Two immature Irish teens decide to take a ride to the coast so that they can (hopefully) grab one of the many packages of cocaine that were lost at sea after a drug bust.

Mini-Review:  The Young Offenders is a charming film that’s both a buddy comedy and a coming of age tale, and I really enjoyed it.  The two leads – Alex Murphy and Chris Walley – have great chemistry, and director Peter Foott does a nice job of never letting things get too silly.

The Eyes Of My Mother

Plot:  A young girl witnesses something awful.  This leads her down a very dark path.

Mini-Review:  The Eyes Of My Mother, which is Nicolas Pesce’s directorial debut, is a pretty straight up horror affair.  So, there’s no overall message or anything like that to be had, just a whole lot of well-honed creepiness.  By the way, this one is a must see if you’re a big fan of films shot in black and white.

The Handmaiden

Plot:  A young woman is sent to be an heiress’ new handmaiden.  She’s not who she seems to be though.  And neither is the heiress.

Mini-Review:  This one is the latest from director Chan-Wook Park (Oldboy, Stoker).  It’s sexy and whimsical and twisted, and I loved every damn minute of it.  Here’s hoping I get to see it again soon.

The Autopsy Of Jane Doe

Plot:  A coroner and his son are tasked with determining the cause of death of a mysterious body.  It doesn’t go as planned.

Mini-Review:  Director Andre Ovredal jumped onto people’s radar a few years ago with Trollhunter, and this is his follow up feature.  I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t make a splash when it gets released.  Both Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox are great in the film, and it has an interesting and original story.

Zoology

Plot:  A woman grows a tail.  Naturally, this changes her life.

Mini-Review:  I really liked this little Russian film.  It’s a coming of age story told with a neat twist (aside from the tail thing, the main character is also an older woman), and it carries a really positive message about disabilities, self confidence and the like.

Split

Plot:  A fella named Kevin, who happens to have somewhere around 23 personalities, kidnaps three teen girls.  He then interacts with them in a peculiar fashion.

Mini-Review:  This was the secret screening at this year’s fest.  To be honest, when I saw the name M. Night Shyamalan pop up on the screen, I groaned and contemplated running out of the theater.  Thankfully I stayed, because Split turned out to be great.  It moves well, has a slick story and is clearly the most fun Shyamalan has had in a long while.  Good for him.  Side note here, the little twist at the very end is going to delight audiences everywhere.

Colossal

Plot:  A giant monster suddenly appears in South Korea.  As if that wasn’t weird enough, a woman discovers that she has a distinct connection with it.

Mini-Review:  With its really creative/clever script and a couple of great performances by Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis, Colossal is definitely Nacho Vigalondo’s best film since Timecrimes (2007).  Genre films like this one are what keep me coming back to Fantastic Fest year after year.

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THE BIG WINNER
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Elle

Plot:  After she’s attacked and raped in her home, Michele continues on like normal as she attempts to figure out who did it.

Mini-Review:  Paul Verhoeven’s latest film is as challenging as it gets.  Not because it’s dense or slow or anything like that, but because it covers a very tough subject in an immensely entertaining way.  Every time I laughed I would wind down with a slight shake of my head because the oh-no-why-am-I-cracking-up part of my brain would flip on.  It’ll be very interesting to see how general audiences react to this film once it’s in theaters.  On another note, Isabelle Huppert’s performance in the movie is incredible.  Here’s hoping she gets every award out there.

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Happy Metal Fun Time (Chuck)

June 3, 2016

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It is difficult to wrap my head around the idea that 2016 is already halfway over, we’ll be hanging twinkle lights, tuning in football and cooking turkeys before you know it. We pause this month to take a look at what bands have put out some exceptional material so far this year. Many groups disappointed with lackluster albums versus their high expectations, but on the other hand, a plethora of surprises awaited as you dig into some of the lesser known acts and extreme metal fringes.

So I offer you this month the Best Metal of 2016 thus far…enjoy!

:Amon Amarth – One Against All:
:Toothgrinder – The House (That Fear Built):
:Architects (UK) – A Match Made In Heaven:
:Primitive Weapons – Ashes or Paradise:
:Black Cobra – Eye Among The Blind:
:Magrudergrind – Sacrificial Hire:
:Borknagar – Cold Runs The River:
:Ihsahn – Mass Darkness:
:Fallujah – Scar Queen:
:Gojira – Stranded:
:Fleshgod Apocalypse – The Fool:

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