Tag Archives: 2017

2017 SOTO Staff Picks

December 7, 2017


Here’s your chance to take a look at what the SOTO staff dug in 2017!  Enjoy.

CHUCK LOESCH (Happy Metal Fun Time)

Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World (AFM)
Igorr – Savage Sinusoid (Metal Blade)
Junius – Eternal Rituals For The Accretion Of Light (Prosthetic)
Kreator – Gods Of Violence (Nuclear Blast USA)
King Woman – Created In The Image Of Suffering (Relapse)
The Black Dahlia Murder – Nightbringers (Metal Blade)
Power Trip – Nightmare Logic (Southern Lord)
Royal Thunder – Wick (Spinefarm)
Paradise Lost – Medusa (Nuclear Blast)
Toothgrinder – Phantom Amour (Spinefarm)

Submitted without explanations, simply know that this is indeed the best metal or 2017 and probably one of the most eclectic group of sounds I have heard in years of listening to the genre. From female fronted hard rock, jazz infused black metal, symphonic black metal, and straight up death metal, this year has been weak over all but with some shining hope for the future and what is to come from the people creating great and innovative metal tunes.

RANDY REYNOLDS (Raised Eyebrows)

Hayden Pedigo – Greetings from Amarillo
Gunn ~ Truscinski Duo – Bay Head
Simon Joyner – Step Into the Earthquake
Brokeback – Illinois River Valley Blues
Happyness – Write In
Justin Walter – Unseen Forces
James Elkington – Wintres Woma
The Stevens – Good
Bob Dylan – Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 13 / 1979-1981
Neil Young + Promise of the Real – The Visitor

I listened to these records the most this year. I’ll probably keep listening to them way past this year. Great music is made every day. And for those of you skeptical about Bob Dylan’s gospel years, take the leap. You can listen here.

LEAH MANNERS (Hip Hop Hooray)

Open Mike Eagle – Brick Body Kids Still Daydream
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 3
Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
Tyler the Creator – Flower Boy
Jonwayne – Rap Album Two
Shabazz Palaces – Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines
Your Old Droog – Packs
Rapsody – Laila’s Wisdom
Oddisee – The Iceberg
Milo — Who Told You To Think??!!?!?!?!
SZA — Ctrl

These are in no particular order!


Every year I sit down to make my “Best Music” list I realize that I’m an old man who no longer cares too much about being hip to whatever new music is dropping into the collective mainframe. I don’t know if my mind has just atrophied to a point where I can only enjoy what’s come before or if there’s just too much for me to listen to and the sheer overwhelming nature of it all makes me want to climb into my record collection and never come out. What I’m trying to get at here is, well, I haven’t listened to that much new music this year, and what I have has been directly funneled to me by either John Laird (sweet angel that he is) or my pre-existing tastes. You will find no revelations or ground-breaking artists on this list, just the music that filtered its way down from the enormous cloud of musical output this year.

Best Music of 2017:

1. Anti-Socialite / Alvvays

There’s a thread of despair woven through Alvvays poppy ditties, a lingering sense that not all is right. Alvvays second album could get away on the sheer catchiness of every song on the album, but Molly Rankin and company add a gravity to the pop that caught me off guard. “In Undertow” is the best single of the year, with “Dreams Tonite” a close second, but any song on the album could at least show up in the running. These songs haunted me – awake or not – with the clean break of Rankin’s voice burying itself deep in my subconscious.

2. Sleep Well Beast / The National

Every time The National releases an album, I listen to it with a hint of nervousness coiled in my stomach. Will this be the album that isn’t a classic? Will this be the release where they break apart at the seams? Every album since Boxer has been a certified classic and Sleep Well Beast continues the trend. There’s some progression in terms of sound for Akron’s own – a light electronic buzz in the background, a Lou Reed like swagger to a few almost interstitial songs – but in the end, this is The National doing what they do best – dark, emotional anthems anchored by Matt Berninger’s rattling growl.

3. Damn. / Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar’s music demands your attention. It isn’t background music, it isn’t something to throw on in the car, it isn’t party music – it is, to varying degrees, challenging music that forces you to sit, think and inevitably enjoy. If To Pimp A Butterfly swung too far into artistic concept, then Damn is Kendrick finding his balance, a full album of party tracks filtered through the mind of Kendrick Lamar. This album bumps as much as any that arrived this year, but with Kendrick manning the cruise ship, the beats will get you in the door, the dark political overtones will keep you in your seat.

4. “Growth Groove” / Nappy Nina ft. Bria Monet

I’d argue that rap in general is in the midst of a hey-day right now, but with the caveat that the new generation of female vocalists are one of the driving forces behind it. “Growth Groove” by former Oaklander Nappy Nina is indicative of just how good rap produced and performed by women was this year. It’s rooted in the classics of rap – there’s a distinct ATCQ vibe to the proceedings – but Nappy Nina’s flat vocals and almost stream-of-conscious flow add a spoonful of originality to the mix and the slow burn of the track holds you in place.

5. “Caroline” / Amine

If I were passing out Rookie of the Year awards, Amine would get the coveted Golden Unicorn. He, like Kendrick before him, has managed to take the structure of commercial rap – catchy hooks, sing-songy vocals – absorbed it, and spit out an amped up version that rises above what came before. “Caroline” is the standout track on the album – a bouncy, morbid smirk of a song – but the whole thing is an announcement that a very real talent has arrived on the scene.

6. “Keys To The Castle” / Thee Oh Sees
“Memory of a Cut-Off Head” / OCS

One of the joys of listening to John Dwyer’s musical evolution is how he continually surprises by working the various formations of Thee Oh Sees into new and engaging soundscapes. Orc and The Memory of a Cut off Head arrived in 2017 with the former seeming to be a nod to the simpler, garage rock of earlier days and the latter bringing back Brigid Dawson in an almost orchestral selection of tracks. Both, to be quite honest, are fantastic, prime examples of the spectrum of Dwyer’s skill.

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In Review: Fantastic Fest 2017

September 29, 2017


Hey friends, here’s what I saw at Fantastic Fest.  I caught 20 films!  I actually wanted to see 30, but I got hit with a sinus infection and it totally derailed me for most of the fest.  Still, I’m calling this year a win.  Read on.

PS – You can check out which films won awards at Fantastic Fest right HERE.

Anna And The Apocalypse

Plot:  A high schooler named Anna is all set to jet out of her hometown on a solo adventure, but then zombies show up.

Review:  This holiday horror musical really came out of the gate strong with catchy songs and a great sense of humor, and for a bit I was ready to peg it as the freshest and most fun zombie flick since Shaun of the Dead.  Then the song quality started to slip, the plot got predictable, the jokes went soft, and the movie shifted to being a fairly bland affair.  I actually still think it’s worth seeing, but be sure to keep those expectations in check.

Bad Genius

Plot:  Lynn is a genius.  Her friends are not.  Lynn is not rich.  Her friends are.  So, she takes their money, she gives them correct test answers, and all is well.  For a while, anyways.

Review:  I totally had sweaty palms for a large chunk of this movie.  It’s exhilarating, which is pretty crazy since the film is essentially about standardized tests.  Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying is great as the ever-ambitious, yet ever-helpful Lynn, and I really hope to see her in more stuff soon.  By the way, there’s a twist at the end this movie that I did not see coming at all.  Also, cheating has always been cheating to me, but I can’t say I necessarily feel that way after seeing Bad Genius.  Guess I’m a criminal now.

Blade Of The Immortal

Plot:  Manji is a samurai who can’t die, and Rin is a young girl trying to avenge her parents.  They team up.

Review:  Director Takashi Miike’s 100th film is long, brutal, surprisingly funny, and really awesome.  Manji (Takuya Kimura) and Rin (Hana Sugisaki) are great in a “big brother, little sister” sort of way, and I never once stopped rooting for them to win out against seemingly everyone in Japan.  So many people get hacked up in this movie, but Miike does a great job of keeping the enemies and fight scenes varied so that nothing feels repetitive.  Well, except for the sound of limbs getting cut off.  I hope you get to see this one soon.

Brawl In Cell Block 99

Plot:  A drug runner gets busted, tossed in prison, and then given a very difficult task by a bad person.

Review:  Just when I thought that director S. Craig Zahler couldn’t get any more violent than Bone Tomahawk, along comes his Brawl In Cell Block 99.  If you’ve ever wanted to see Vince Vaughn as quick-witted, no nonsense former boxer with a penchant for curb stomping the fuck out of people, then this movie is for you.


Plot:  Zaid is a man on the hunt to find the person who murdered his brother, Yasin.

Review:  The Fantastic Fest site refers to this film as a “realistic, culturally relevant take on Batman.”  I wouldn’t go that far.  Yes, it’s a gritty look at a normal dude dealing out justice on his own terms, but it always goes where you expect it to and I found the main bad guy to be less than memorable.  Still, it’s far from a bad movie.


Plot:  Cellular miniaturization has become a thing and lots of people are going “small” in order to help the environment and/or change their lives.  Paul Safranek and wife Audrey are the latest to get in on the mini-action.

Review:  Alexander Payne’s latest film is a big slice of social satire that doesn’t quite all the way work.  I really loved the first hour and some change, but once it moves to try and actually make a point, things get messy and the film stumbles to the finish line.  Matt Damon is great in it the whole time, though.


Plot:  Lola works for superstar actress Heather Anderson as her personal assistant.  She likes her job.  Or at least she does until Heather gets murdered, and the cops suspect that she did it.

Review:  I’ve yet to decide if the ending of Gemini is clever or a cop out, but either way, I did enjoy the movie.  I dug its overall neo-noir vibe, and I felt like it was paced really well.  On another note, I’ve really grown fond of Zoe Kravitz.  She’s got a way about her that’s hard to ignore.

Gerald’s Game

Plot:  Gerald and Jessie are a married couple in desperate need of a getaway, so they take one.  Whilst engaging in the first naughty moment of the weekend, Gerald dies and Jessie is left alone with her arms spread and handcuffed to separate bed posts.

Review:  I’ve never read the Stephen King book that this movie is based off of, so I have no idea if it’s similar or not.  What I can tell you is that I thought it was a great film.  Carla Gugino is stellar as Jessie, and the movie just wouldn’t quite work the same without her.  Mostly because a lot of it takes place in her head or via the viewpoint of her cuffed to a bed, so her reactions to things and her body in general is how you follow what’s going on.  Side note, there’s some legit gore on display here, so keep that in mind before you sit down to casually watch it some night on Netflix.


Plot:  This one is a documentary about Gilbert Gottfried.

Review:  If you’re a fan of Gilbert Gottfried, then I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to watch this.  It’s got some nice insight into how he got started, and you get to see him when he’s not on a stage saying crazy things.

Good Manners

Plot:  Ana hires Clara to help her around the house while she is pregnant.  Things start out great but eventually spiral down a weird hole.

Review:  There’s technically two movies to consider here, as there’s a jump forward in time that takes place around the midway mark.  Both halves are pretty solid.  I was pleased to find that the film actually turned out to be like the Fantastic Fest site described – “a Gothic fairy tale for adults.”


Plot:  A gang needs to get to their recently-jailed member.  Some cops would prefer that not happen.

Review:  Jailbreak is pretty much a low rent take on The Raid.  I know that doesn’t sound all that nice, but I actually don’t mean it in any sort of bad way.  There are indeed some amateurish parts, but most of the fight scenes are well done and its swift run time doesn’t ever let it drag.

The Killing Of A Sacred Deer

Plot:  A man and his family get inundated with scary problems when an oddball teenager enters their lives.

Review:  Director Yorgos Lanthimos has quickly become a big favorite of mine.  Dogtooth, The Lobster, and The Killing Of A Sacred Deer – they’re all great films.  I don’t want to say much too much, as the movie definitely has a lot of moments that can be easily spoiled, so I’ll just stick to this – it’s fucked up story that left me with all sorts of weird thoughts floating around in my head.  By the way, Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman and Barry Keoghan deliver big time performances here.

Love And Saucers

Plot:  David Huggins swears that he lost his virginity to an actual alien.  This documentary explores his claim.

Review:  This one is only about an hour long, so there’s not much to it other than David Huggins talking about his various experiences with extraterrestrials beings.  I’m guessing that some think his stories and paintings are interesting (or maybe funny), but I mostly found them to be tedious.  Not really my thing here.

Mary And The Witch’s Flower

Plot:  A young girl finds a special flower that magically charges a broom and takes her to a school that trains witches.  From there, things don’t go quite as planned.

Review:  I’ll be honest, I’ve always found the Studio Ghibli-type stuff of the world to be pretty hit or miss.  Sometimes the movies just go on for far too long, or I don’t like the characters.  Thankfully, I didn’t run into that here.  I found this one to be a charming, creative affair that’s beautifully animated.  I’d watch it again.

Pin Cushion

Plot:  A teenage girl and her mom move to a new town.  Things don’t go well.

Review:  I didn’t like this movie.  It’s barely 80 minutes long, and yet I felt like it dragged on for an eternity.  I’m not even sure what it was trying to say.

Ron Goossens: Low Budget Stuntman

Plot:  Drunk stuntman Ron Goossens’ sleazy lesser half has tossed down an ultimatum.  If he doesn’t figure out a way to sleep with Bo Maerten, the Netherlands biggest movie star, then she will take their unborn child and leave forever.

Review:  I don’t know if you any of you have seen New Kids Nitro or New Kids Turbo, but they are some of the loudest, dumbest comedies ever.  Ron Goossens, I figured, would be more the same since it’s from that team, but it surprised me with its black comedy-lean.  I wanted to laugh at but also hold Ron (Tim Haars).

The Square

Plot:  Since this film is thick, I’m just going to borrow a line from IMDB here – “a poignant satirical drama reflecting our times.”

Review:  Big fans of director Ruben Ostlund’s Force Majeure should be excited about The Square, as it’s just as funny, well made and interesting.  Although, I can’t say it’s anywhere near as accessible.  This film lunges in a lot of directions and occasionally gets so dense that it can be difficult to pick up exactly what it’s putting down.  If you want a great think-piece though, then seek it out.

Super Dark Times

Plot:  Some kids accidentally do something awful.  What follows is them trying to hold themselves together.

Review:  I know the title here is Super Dark Times, but oh my is this movie is for real dark.  I was actually caught off guard by where it one went.  Owen Campbell as Zach and Charlie Tahan as Josh make for two of my favorite performances of the entire festival.  By the way, I think I’m scared of teenagers now.

Tiger Girl

Plot:  A girl named Maggie wants to be a cop, but she fails the tryout and instead is set to train to be a security guard.  While doing this she meets a rebellious young lady called Tiger, and then things go off the rails.

Review:  I was excited to see this because it has Ella Rumpf (from Raw) in it, but the film mostly fell flat for me.  I think it’s because you’re supposed to find its characters to be edgy and meaningful, but I couldn’t bring myself to like any of them.

Vidar The Vampire

Plot:  Vidar is really tired of being a farmer.  He wants loose women and stuff!  A chance encounter with a vampire Jesus may just give him what he desires.

Review:  This is one of those bonkers Fantastic Fest movies that you either love or hate because of how bonkers it is.  I wasn’t a fan.  I do think it has some really funny moments, but overall it’s definitely one of those films where me not being from its country of origin (Norway) proved to be too much of a culture hurdle.

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My Must-See Films At Fantastic Fest 2017

September 19, 2017


Oh my.  Fantastic Fest is here!  I usually like to somewhat blindly jump into the fest and let the films surprise me, but this year I decided to take a different approach and actually make myself a short list of movies that I have to see.  Below you’ll find those selections.

PS – I used Noahphex’s Youtube compilation of FF trailers.  You should check it out!  He’s got just about all of the fest’s films there.

Blade Of The Immortal

I can’t believe this is Takashi Miike’s 100th film.  That’s crazy.  On a related note, this adaptation of the Blade Of The Immortal manga looks like a lot of fun.

Brawl In Cell Block 99

Vince Vaughn beats up a car in the teaser for this movie from S. Craig Zahler (he did the excellent Bone Tomahawk).  That’s some Street Fighter 2 kind of stuff.  I’m in.


I haven’t seen anything else by Jeremy Rush, the writer/director of Wheelman, but I really like Frank Grillo (Captain America: Civil War), producer Joe Carnahan (The Grey, The A-Team) and car chases.

Gerald’s Game

The teaser for his Stephen King adaptation by Mike Flanagan (Hush) makes me feel uneasy.  I’ll rally up though just so that I can watch Bruce Greenwood handcuff Carla Gugino to a bed.

Super Dark Times

Super Dark Times registers to me as a fairly silly name, but the movie actually looks like it’s a rather twisted affair.  I like it when coming of age movies go dark.

Good Manners

I love the mysterious tone that’s all over the trailer for this film.  I’m also really into the way the Fantastic Fest site describes it as a a “gothic fairytale for adults.”


I can’t quite figure out why this is called Applecart, but it looks like a a pretty interesting horror film.  I can’t wait to watch everything go wrong for all the characters in it.

The Killing Of A Sacred Deer

I really love writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster, so of course I’m excited to see his follow-up.  He has a super weird sense of humor that I just really enjoy.  Also, I’m intrigued by Alicia Silverstone’s supposedly awesome appearance in this movie.

The Square

Because Force Majeure is so damn great, I’m down to watch anything from writer/director Ruben Ostlund.  With that being said, I do hope that The Square is a worthy follow-up.


This one from Alexander Payne is the Fantastic Fest closing film this year.  It looks as charming as can be.

Bad Genius

i wanted to see this film before I even made it halfway through its trailer.  Down with standardized tests!

Ron Goossens Low Budget Stuntman

This is the latest from the team behind the really dumb but really funny New Kids films.  I won’t be missing it.

Blue My Mind

Here’s another Fantastic Fest entry that looks like a messed up coming of age tale.  I’m in!

The Cured

A movie that takes place after a world-conquering zombie virus been cured?  That sounds neat.

Les Affames

Here’s another interesting-looking zombie film.

The Merciless

Few things at Fantastic Fest go over as well as Korean gangster films.  This will be a lot of fun to watch with that crowd.


I love the look and feel of this film’s trailer, and the Fantastic Fest site compares it to Drive, Nightcrawler, Heat and The Driver.  That sounds like a winner to me.


Everything about this movie looks intense.  Guess I’ll have to drink during it.

There are a handful of films that don’t have trailers out, but I think they sound neat.  Here are those picks with links to their Fantastic Fest pages.

Thoroughbreds (black comedy!)
Revenge (survival horror!)
Anna And The Apocalypse (horror musical!)
1922 (Stephen King adaptation!)

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Happy Metal Fun Time (Chuck)

September 7, 2017


I love all kinds of metal. I could list the 50+ genres that we metal folk have come up with over the last three decades, but it would be wasted on the passive music consumer, simply because they don’t totally describe the nuances of any particular soundscape that a band creates (other than Djent, because it is an onomatopoeia).  Unfortunately as we divided up our all-encompassing Metal titular reference, we parsed the audience into groups and many for the sake of an internet argument won’t admit that they cross out of their small chalk pentagram to enjoy something that isn’t cool enough for elites.

I take a different approach, if it is heavy, if I can jam to it, I will listen and enjoy it. The fundamentals! What I’m getting to is that clean vocals have become a non-starter for many metalheads, and there is even a website designating the negative connotation of clean singing. If a vocalist actually sings and doesn’t growl, bark, squeal or provide a guttural attack, then there is no way it could be metal. That simple approach is altogether juvenile and completely wrong. This month is just music from 2017 that prominently features clean vocals, yet is some of the best metal out there right now.  Naysayers can suck it up and deal.

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Happy Metal Fun Time (Chuck)

July 7, 2017


I still have all my fingers and toes, which is more than I can say for some people after celebrating the 4th of July. It marks our independence as a nation, coming together in one voice and deciding our fate as a nation, not just a bunch of hicks who needed to get away from Europe. It also means that the year is flying by with impressive speed, and we need to take stock of where we stand after six months of music has been laid out before us.

So far I would say 2017 has been an average year for heavy metal, I know there will be those who think otherwise, but even the underground has produced some lackluster gems, and the mainstream majors have supplied some of the same tripe over and over again. I put together a list of my favorite songs of the year so far for you to peruse, I had a tough time narrowing it down to about ten bands, but after about 15ish, the quality went down dramatically. Maybe I’m getting old and tired of the same story, but honestly this is about all that really caught my ear (so far).

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Happy Metal Fun Time (Chuck)

April 7, 2017


I had thought about doing Christian metal this month for Easter, then I thought about war music since we are bombing the Middle East again, but ultimately I have a ton of really excellent new tunes that I haven’t featured so far this year and since I waited till the last minute to put this month’s list together, it comes down to my own laziness and lack of creativity. I know, I should blow smoke up your ass and frame it as something else, but if metal represents (or should represent anything) it’s honesty in what we say and portray, so no bullshitting you about my playlists, Ever!

It has been a relatively quiet year so far, at least for decent metal releases, but rather than quantity, the quality of what has been hitting the shelves lately reaches new heights for the genre. Some stretching the boundaries of what we know as metal, others nestle into the finer aspects of defined genres. This month you get the music of 2017 that represents a little bit of both, enjoy!

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