Music to Your Ears – Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lopez and Sleigh Bells

Bogged down by the cold weather? Treading water till your new New Year’s resolution? Well never fear, there’s more music to distract you from the never-ending torment that is reality!

Taylor Swift – Reputation

I don’t know that you’ll ever find anyone more divisive than Taylor Swift in the world of pop culture today. Everybody has a hot take on her reputation, and she seems as though there is a heavily cultivated image set forth by her label and other people. Naturally, Miss Swift has made it super difficult for a simple blogger like myself to obtain her music in order to review. Not that I put a lot of effort in, but coming to write this, I found that there were no ways to even stream a full song other than hoping for songs to come back around with iHeartRadio’s “Reputation Radio” station. It took over four hours and several repeats of “Wildest Dreams”, “Back to December” and “Love Story”. Suffice it to say, that’s a much more annoying way to take in Reputation than I would have liked, but it didn’t cause the work to suffer. Despite the tracks being wildly out of order, I discerned the centerpieces. You might already be well aware of the “I’m Too Sexy” sampling “Look What You Made Me Do” or the recent single release “…Ready for It?” I’ve heard from many friends that this is clearly a forced attempt at darkening her image like Katy Perry did last album with 2013’s Prism and “Dark Horse”. If that’s the case, then it’s shamefully dull of her to copycat. I think she’s still trying to discover where, as a major pop artist, she’ll stand in the echelon of pop culture. I think there are certainly better artists, and Swift herself has done much better (1989 is her best). It was always going to be an uphill battle with the paparazzi, culture and generally because it’s a follow-up to 1989. There are definite bright spots, but this may be forgettable in a year. The irony is that much of the good stuff was written and produced by Bleachers/Fun/superwriter Jack Antonoff, including the best song “Getaway Car” which has several lyrics and beats that seem ripped right out of his own “I Wanna Get Better”. If that’s the case, it’s shameful too, but I kind of don’t mind. She’s still fun, at least, if a bit over-processed. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go get some lunch at McDonald’s

Key Tracks: New Year’s Day / Getaway Car / King of My Heart

Jennifer Lopez – Amor Amor Amor

One artist I’m surprised I’ve missed is Jennifer Lopez. A stalwart of my high school years, as her image was repeatedly up whenever flashing by MTV – particularly the afternoon benchmark TRL – she sort of faded away from my radar after 2005’s Rebirth. I recall her popping up now and again, particularly as a judge for five of the later seasons of American Idol. I always admired her, especially as an actress (Selena is great), but I never really kept up with her music in the post-TRL universe. I’m glad she’s wrapped herself up in her Hispanic heritage with songs like this, sort of like Shakira has always maintained a Spanish-language first mentality. As for the song itself, it’s catchy and pumped me up on first listen. I could see this getting a lot of airwave time, so perhaps Lopez will re-emerge in my mind for this next album, Por Primera Vez.

Sleigh Bells – Kid Kruschev

This mostly seems like b-sides to last year’s phenomenal album Jessica Rabbit. Many of the tracks could be inserted anywhere in that and not seem out of place. I’m perfectly happy with it, because it’s seven new songs from singer-songwriter Alexis Krauss and guitarist Derek Miller. Oh, okay – I looked it up, and apparently the duo moved out of Brooklyn and can’t stop creating music. In addition, Miller says that they “like the idea of putting out shorter records at a more consistent rate, so we’re gonna give it a shot for a while, see how it feels”. Hey, if that means more Sleigh Bells on an annual basis, I am definitely behind it. If you love the band, this is easily worth it.

Key Tracks: And Saints / Florida Thunderstorm

Walk the Moon – What If Nothing

With the megahit “Shut Up and Dance” forcing the band into one-hit wonder discussions, there’s a lot riding on this follow-up to 2014’s breakout Talking Is Hard . Lead vocalist Nicholas Petricca starts off by stretching his vocals, lowering the bass in “Headphones” in order to mirror their high-range dance songs of the previous album. Don’t worry, they haven’t lost their rhythm tenderness, as the next two tracks “One Foot” and “Surrender” prove. If you’re new to them, think of the band as a little cousin to Imagine Dragons.

Key Tracks: One Foot / Kamikaze / Can’t Sleep (Wolves)

Evanescence – Synthesis

This is a neat oddity for Evanescence fans – the group has reworked much of their best material, and rather than forcing a best of album, they’ve crafted a remix version in the best veins of their genre. Lacrymosa now has violins and dripping pianos behind the original synth and vocals. Bring Me to Life is entirely different, orchestrally symphonic – the piece is like a prog version a metal butterfly emerged from the cocoon of their hiatus. It’s not a lot of new material, but people who grew up with Amy Lee’s melodic vocalizations will be enamored with this post-Halloween treat.

Key Tracks: Bring Me to Life / Imperfection (original song!) / Lithium

Seal – Standards

What’s with everyone getting into doing the classics? Recently it was former French first lady Carla Bruni, a year ago it was Bob Dylan. To each his own, I guess, and it’s usually a quick hit with fans and a nice cash grab, even when you’re actually a fan of the standards you’re singing. Seal sounds solid here, and he certainly has always had the chops to perform these songs. Of those recent performers, he’s easily the best. Heck, I want him to do another album already.

Key Tracks: Luck Be A Lady / Autumn Leaves / I’ve Got You Under My Skin


Apparently next week we’re seeing the Revival of Eminem, that Trump-slaying raconteur, and we’ll be getting some Blue Lips from songstress Tove Lo. We’re also finally into the Christmas season, as Sia has an Xmas album, while we’ll finally review Gwen Stefani’s month-old dip into the holidays. Stay tuned…

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Music to Your Ears – Maroon 5, The Fratellis and Weezer

Yes, it’s been a bit of a time – much like last year, October and November see a dip in both quality of releases and my interest in them. Luckily, there were a handful of pick-ups you just have to hear from the last few weeks:

Maroon 5 – Red Pill Blues

I don’t want to lower my expectations for this album, but we all have to face the fact that while Maroon 5 has “grown” as a band, they’ve clearly distanced themselves from their original rock sound. This is definitively a product of the current pop scene, best represented by frontman Adam Levine’s extended stint on The Voice. While we can’t say any of the band members are untalented, particularly Levine, they’ve sort of sold out too. There’s nothing wrong in it, as I’ve always hoped for the greatest of successes for one of my favorite bands. The truth is that their first album, Songs About Jane will be the only truly ‘rock’ infused work by Maroon 5. From then on they were reaching for the stars, and now that they’ve gotten there, they’re sort of dull. Sure, they’ve got massive hits, but the hooks propelling them are more intriguing when their guests join in (Kendrick Lamar in “Don’t Wanna Know”, SZA in “What Lovers Do”, Julia Michaels in “Help Me Out”). I’m sure the boys are still as talented as ever, they just don’t get a good showcase here – particularly James Valentine, so good on the first two or three albums, but pushed to the background by boops and whistles. At least he’s rich beyond his wildest dreams. Also, I can’t hate on Adam Levine if he’s willing to dress as a mascot bug to reference Kafka in his videos. The guys are still a least a little clever.

Key Tracks: Denim Jacket / Girls Like You / Don’t Wanna Know

The Fratellis – “The Next Time We Wed”

As the harbingers of the Chicago Blackhawks’ approaching dynasty, “Chelsea Dagger” was played constantly for the six years that team dominated the National Hockey League. Hoping to avoid one-hit wonder status, The Fratellis have plugged away touring and writing music, turning up now with their first single from the upcoming In Your Own Sweet Time, out March 9th next year. While it doesn’t have that hammer hook shout along of the older track, this is still a fun time. “Give me half a chance and you can be my next obsession”. Knowing that major radio stations have latched on to Fitz and the Tantrums and Portgual the Man in recent years for their “indie rock of the month” this has a chance to catch on over the winter months as a bit of an alternative infatuation to your moody Taylor Swift driven journeys.

Weezer – Pacific Daydream

Weezer has long made it a tradition to throw caution to the wind and make the same damn album nearly every year since 2008. They’ve been riding the coattails of their much better early work, which can seem to be the same thing as what I accused Maroon 5 of doing above. That, of course, is different here as I believe Weezer doesn’t really care about their public image, instead turning in song after song about lazy beach rock, reveling in their ability to maintain the mundane. That being said, they’re phenomenal live performers, and to churn out such dreck does not diminish the concerts they endow upon us. Of course, there’s still highlights to be had here, which entitle them to a few more songs in their playlists. Rivers Cuomo will live it up as long as he can, and more power to him – it’s almost as if he’s trolled us all into realizing Weezer is still a legitimate rock band.

Key Tracks: Weekend Woman / Feels Like Summer


That’s it – hopefully the rest of November picks up the same, but if it doesn’t, don’t fret – you can look forward to the Music Bracket Challenge, where you can pick which songs are the best of 2017! I’ve mentioned it in three previous articles, where I’ve chosen the best of each season:

 

When December rolls around, we’ll have a final twenty to add in to the mix, and from those four chapters we’ll cull four each to make a sweet sixteen symphony! I’m looking forward to it hopefully as much as you will be, so stay tuned!

Podcast October 31 – Top Twenty Horror Films

We here at Interjections find ourselves in a transitional phase, searching for a reason to exist. As for now, regular contributor Jimmy joins founder Tristan in reading over IGN’s list of the top 100 horror films, a list they wrote earlier this month.

Jimmy and Tristan also clue us in on their own personal top five, delighting in this ghoulish celebration of pagan cinema. Join them for this exploration of the best of the best:

Good Sports: The 2017 World Series

That’s right folks, it played out just like we all imagined at the beginning of the year: the Boston Red Sox are set to host the New York Mets in a re-match of the 1986 World Series. Wait, I was completely wrong? But how could that be? I should probably feign contempt at being abashedly deceived that my pick could end up wildly different than the actual outcome, right?

Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers

We were plenty worried that this would be a dull World Series, and while the league and broadcasters would have loved a New York market team, it simply wasn’t meant to be. The Houston Astros outlasted the Yankees in order to win the best of seven in thrilling fashion – both teams won all their home games, culminating in a final 4-0 capper on Saturday in Houston. That brings them into a matchup with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who’ve been waiting for their opponent since Thursday after knocking out the reigning champion Cubs.

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The first game will be a clash of titans, with Clayton Kershaw getting his first taste of World Series action on the Dodgers home mound. He’ll face down Dallas Keuchel, the rising star in his third year with the Astros. As a fan of pitching duels, this is maybe my most anticipated game of the season. I’ve also long been a fan of Kershaw and I’ve been waiting for him to get to this stage. Beyond tonight’s contest, Wednesday’s will be no slouch. Newly minted ALCS MVP Justin Verlander will take his turn against the other second-in-command Rich Hill. On the opposite side of the spectrum from Kershaw, this will be Verlander’s fourth World Series game as a starter. He pitched twice in his rookie season – losing tightly in a Detroit game 1 and letting the series slip away in St. Louis in game 5. He also got crushed in the first game of a sweep against San Francisco (for their second of their even-year bullshit run). Will he be able to exorcise those demons in Hollywood and find a way to put Houston back on top before coming back to Texas?

Once there, Yu Darvish will take over pitching duties for the Dodgers, but it’s unknown where Houston will go, for now. As for hitting, Los Angeles will see the return of Corey Seager to the lineup, although they don’t necessarily need his talented bat with the likes of Justin Turner and Chris Taylor, co-MVPs from their NLCS. Turner batted in 6 runs and had the memorable walk-off home run in game two against the Cubs, so exciting like Kirk Gibson’s in 1988 that he’s become a bit of a mascot for the team with his Tormund-style ginger locks cascading from his batting helmet.

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I’m certain we’ll see some firework heroics like that, or some clutch pitching from some hefty rotations. Houston has plenty to match up with the slick Dodger batters, with Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa leading the way. Many other pundits have posited that this will be a pitching Los Angeles against a batting Houston, but I can see quality players on both sides. This may be one of the most evenly matched Series in my lifetime, which should make for a very exciting competition.

While I’d be happy with either taking the crown, I’m going to call this as going the full way, with Los Angeles winning in 7.

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Music to Your Ears: Pink, St. Vincent, Robert Plant, and Stars

It’s been a strange week as it’s cooled down – baseball is winding down, hockey is warming up. I didn’t really feel like writing anything about basketball because, frankly, I’m no expert in the sport. I can’t definitively discuss what it takes to make it in the NBA. It also doesn’t really interest me, especially when you have super-teams forming left and right, forcing parity out of the window. What I do love to discuss is music, so I’m sticking to that:

St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION

Annie Clark has slowly metamorphized into one of the most artistically dynamic artists in pop music working today. Similarly to her contemporary – the enigmatic Sia Furler – the sound of St. Vincent has evolved from bare-bones romanticism to full-fledged grandiose. Discordant trumpets and embellished synths are her instrumental calling card, and in her previous two albums, 2011’s Strange Mercy and 2014’s self-titled effort, she used them to great success. Here she expands on that cacophony of sound, a synthetic symphony that doesn’t let up until the last drop beat. The most interesting thing here is how diabolically sinister the whole album feels. I talked a few weeks ago about The Mynabirds album Be Here Now, and how singer Laura Burhenn wrote it with the fresh American election hanging heavily on her mind. It’s certain St. Vincent has followed suit in that regard, among other intensely personal experiences that have influenced the stories within Masseduction. She’s turned out what could potentially be her greatest album, but I may need a few more listens before I decide – yet that’s obviously worth it.

Key Tracks: Young Lover / Happy Birthday, Johnny / Los Ageless

Continue reading Music to Your Ears: Pink, St. Vincent, Robert Plant, and Stars

Good Sports: That Championship Feeling!

Now that the Washington Nationals are pouting at home, contemplating why they’ve literally never been able to finish a playoff series, we can move past and ignore them, looking at the final four of Major League Baseball! Here are your Championship Series:

New York Yankees at Houston Astros

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Hey, we here at Interjections aren’t the happiest about the New York Yankees are in the championship series, but we’re not going to use that to temper our expectations for the upcoming matchup. We may be Mets or Phillies fans here, but there’s no bias here, I swear. Bearing that in mind, I really do think Houston has a better team….on paper. New York has the more potent lineup, with the gargantuan Aaron Judge leading the crowd. Despite acting like the complete opposite from his regular season self, the team comes and goes by him – if he steps up, the Bronx Bombers may find their new hero in Judge. If not, several batters have been helping out – most notably Didi Gregorius, who nearly single-handedly pushed the Yankees past the Indians in Wednesday’s deciding ALDS game. If the pitchers can figure themselves out, particularly Luis Severino, who had a forgettable wild-card game against Minnesota by letting two homers fly from Brian Dozier and Eddie Rosario, putting them in a hole early. He bounced back in game four, holding the Indians to three runs. Tanaka performed much better than his regular season version, while Aroldis Chapman actually held onto a save in the game 5 victory. If their pitchers can actually keep it together, we’ll see what happens.

I do think the Houston rotation is one of the best in the remaining four – you have Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander and Charlie Morton, all shining against the Red Sox. There was a fear that Lance McCullers wasn’t fine enough to return to the group after getting hit by a comebacker in game 3, but I think if healthy he’ll fare much better, just to prove naysayers wrong. Jose Altuve is tied with Gregorius for the postseason home run lead, with 3, so there’s all likelihood this will be a sharpshooting affair. I think overall though, the pitchers can handle the lineup, and Houston will come out on top with crafty baserunning and home run stamina. I’m thinking it’s close though, and we’ll have a thriller in Texas with Houston winning in 7.

Chicago Cubs at Los Angeles Dodgers

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With a comeback for the ages, the Chicago Cubs stunned the Washington Nationals last night, winning their NLDS 3 games to 2. The Dodgers were a bit more alacritous, dispatching the Arizona Diamondbacks in a three-game sweep. With extra rest this week, the best pitcher in baseball will face off against those exhausted Cubbies, which should prove to be a blowout of sorts, unless Clayton Kershaw’s postseason struggles rear their ugly head once again. Annually, he’s one of the most surprisingly ineffective hurlers, but my feelings for tomorrow’s game lead me to believe he’ll redeem himself. If the Cubs have any longevity, they’re sure to face him again, which makes their situation even more dire. They’ll need clutch hits from players like Kyle Schwarber, mysteriously absent from much of the proceedings the past week. Leonys Martin and Javier Baez are struggling as well, though the slack has been picked up aggressively by Anthony Rizzo, who stands tall with 6 RBI. He and Kris Bryant should suit up admirably against their west-coast rivals.

This will be a re-match of last seasons NLCS, so expect recent history to haunt the Dodgers. While Kershaw ably shut down the Cubs in a matchup opposite Kyle Hendricks last time, Hendricks was nearly perfect in game six, combining with former closer Aroldis Chapman for a two-hit game. While Hendricks should show up as strong as he did last season, the worry here is the current bullpen. Wade Davis is quite a fine replacement for Chapman, but beyond him and Carl Edwards Jr, there is a lot of trepidation. Even Edwards and Davis were tagged for a run each in relief last night, so their health and rest will likely sway this series. On the Dodgers side, Kenta Maeda will need to play better than his regular season self, and Kenley Jansen is playing like never before. Rich Hill is still around, and really the only big addition is wunderkind Cody Bellinger. I’m calling this the best series of the postseason, and I’ve very intrigued to see where this goes. My guess is it finally goes Kershaw’s way and we get to see Los Angeles face-off against Houston. In a reversal of last season’s result, I’ll go with Los Angeles in 6.


Stay tuned early next week four basketball preview, and I’m sure within week we’ll know which of these four teams will be making history – Houston, so they can win a World Series for the first time after failing to win one in the National League, the Cubs to get back-to-back wins after not winning for a century, the Dodgers because Kershaw deserves to let this franchise win for the first time in 30 years, or the Yankees because God wanted 2017 to truly be the worst year?

Is Mr. Robot Still a Better Gotham Than Gotham?

Excuse me, I have a quick question: Have you got the time?

That’s how we left things on the precipice of the second season of USA’s breakout drama Mr. Robot, with new character Leon asking hackers Trenton and Mobley the paradoxical question. I’m here to ask if you’ve got the time to dive into yet another recap of the program, one that begs the question again: Is Mr. Robot still a better Gotham than Gotham? If you’re curious why we’re doing this here at the Interjections website, take a quick glance way back to last July, when I boastfully claimed that Mr. Robot might have a better origin story for a Batman-like figure than its actual Batman-based show.

Before we can check in on hacker genius Elliot and his fSociety friends, I want to briefly go over what’s been going on in that Bruce Wayne-wasting Gotham. Obviously, before you continue – I’ll be mentioning heavy SPOILERS for both shows. If you don’t want to be ruined for either, I would turn back now.

Continue reading Is Mr. Robot Still a Better Gotham Than Gotham?

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