Music to Your Ears – Shakira, Linkin Park and Carly Rae Jepsen

HiNew music for new music listeners, I hope? Remember to comment responsibly below if you have a particular song or band you want me to check out – I’ll review it in a future article! For now, here’s the latest for May:

Noah Cyrus – I’m Stuck 

Who would have thought I would be talking about not just one, but two of the Cyrus girls in the month of May? Miley’s single “Malibu” was definitively heading for our sweet sixteen at the end of the year, but now I’ve got a familial challenger for the spot – little sister Noah has emerged on the musical scene, following in her siblings’ footsteps (older brother Trace is the frontman for pop-punk outfit Metro Station). Without the needless comparisons to her two elders, Noah certainly comes out on top immediately, progressing towards pop stardom with her first effort. Another single, “Stay Together” was decent, but “I’m Stuck” pins her for potential song of the summer status. She gets exactly what her future and present fans want, and delivers with aplomb. A tinder that sparks from its first moment, yet allows itself to be tender as the chorus rises, Cyrus is due for greater things on her own.

Carly Rae Jepsen – Cut to the Feeling

Before listening to this, I saw a lot about how there’s a strange stigma surrounding Jepsen since her breakout hit “Call Me Maybe”. It seemed that she would be a one-hit wonder, and when she wasn’t, people dismissed her even further, pretending that she was nabbing other pop stars’ images (Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, etc). After that, she continued to infuse her ebullience in everything she did despite the naysayers. Here, she elaborates on that, bringing one of the sharpest pop hits of the year. Unfortunately, critics still attempted to knock her down, pretending this would be one of those awful earworms along the lines of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” or Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling”. While it doesn’t help that this has a similar title to the latter, I don’t care. So what if it ends up being the anthem to one of those disposable Dreamworks’ animated films? It’s even better than the aforementioned earworms, and if we didn’t have songs to overplay on the radio, we’d get sick of everything. For once, this one also isn’t a track to get sick of. It’s one to dance until the sunrise.

Grizzly Bear – Mourning Sound

There are some bands you struggle to love, despite them being obvious up your alley choices for friends to introduce to you. I did enjoy 2008’s “Two Weeks” enough, but it never really outlasted that time period like other bands of their ilk did (Sunset Rubdown, Vampire Weekend, Animal Collective). Then they mastered the soundtrack for the great film Blue Valentine, and while I thought I enjoyed it at the time, it’s moreso that the songs really work well within the film and not elsewhere. It may just be me, because they have a solid following, and their new album will likely be near the top of year-end lists. Following that line of thinking, it’s a pleasant surprise that I’ve enjoyed their first single off of the album, “Mourning Sound”. Simple lyrics, steady drums, and a dreamy warble from Edward Droste satisfies even this curmudgeon.

Shakira – El Dorado

Much like earlier this month when I mentioned how fantastic Kendrick Lamar’s new album was, I feel that I can’t exactly expound upon Shakira’s newest album – as it’s mostly in a language I don’t know. Despite this, I can still guarantee the melodies and the instrumentals are a delight, and Shakira remains at the top of her game. Even with sporadic English, I understand the ardor and passion that Shakira’s words effuse, and with collaborators like Colombian stars Carlos Vives and Maluma, it’s wonderful that she returns to her homeland often to ensure her international stardom. One thing’s for sure, Shakira is still one of the greatest pop stars touring today.

Key Tracks: Perro Fiel / Amarillo / Comme Moi

Linkin Park – One More Light

At moments reminiscent of a past life, Linkin Park attempts to rekindle past glories with a grand return. Unfortunately, like some of our other favorite bands from our youth, it’s just never going to be the same. There are certainly some bright moments, like when Pusha T guests in a swift rap battle on “Good Goodbye”, but they just aren’t the Linkin Park that gave us “In the End” and “Numb”. That isn’t to say this is a good band, but most of the tracks sound like Imagine Dragons-lite, which is strange seeing as Imagine Dragons always seemed like a band inspired by Linkin Park’s original sound. I’m glad they’re still around, but much like Gorillaz and Franz Ferdinand, they just aren’t the same. Worth it to completists, but not to the casual Linkin fan.

Key Tracks: Talking to Myself / Sorry for Now / Battle Symphony


Next week we’ll cover some new albums from Bleachers, Halsey and Dan Auerbach.

Twin Peaks: The Return (Episode 1)

I must confess to the fact that I’m a Twin Peaks newcomer. I haven’t seen any of the previous episodes but I’ve been recapped on the Laura Palmer murder mystery and the ensuing oddities from friends. Having said that, I’m still a devout fan of David Lynch’s oeuvre of idiosyncratic surrealism (The Elephant Man, Dune and Blue Velvet being my personal choices for his magnum opuses).

Lynch’s collaborations with Kyle MacLachlan have been a tremendously fruitful marriage of actor and director. Kyle seems to be readily incorporated into Lynch’s brand of bucolic madness. In the intervening 25 years, Agent Dale Cooper has a nefarious doppelganger: a tanned weekend warrior with a mullet and pitch-black irises. Quite the stark contrast to his well-groomed, fastidious image during his stay in Twin Peaks.

Much like his other excursions into dream logic, the dialogue is serpentine with quotable nonsequitirs such as when Dale advises a lodging employee to hire another bouncer, she cryptically replies “It’s a world of truck drivers.” Along with that, the 217-member cast includes a cornucopia of celebrity walk-ons (Ashley Judd, Jane Adams, Matthew Lillard, etc.) and loopy characters (the absentminded neighbor is my favorite).

Lynch can be oblique but he doesn’t alienate the audience with pretentiousness. Within a reconnoitered building, a man is garrisoning a “top-secret” project which is a glass box that seemingly hypnotizes the people around it. How it correlates to the overarching story is still an enigma but when the guard states that his colleague once saw something materialize inside the box, we are anxiously awaiting a phantasmagorical glimpse ourselves.

Emboldened by a slot on Showtime, the show isn’t bound by network censors and therefore, a highly charged, carnal sex scene can occur before a EVP-esque poltergeist can collide through the booth and savagely slaughter the copulating couple. It’s a genuinely scary set piece. Cooper is largely missing from the premiere episode but the plot now pivots on gravitating Cooper back to the wilderness.

The latest incarnation of Twin Peaks is an unassailable success. It proceeds to ferry us back to the land of Lynch’s gonzo imagination and terrifying quirkiness (the deputy chief gains information from messages from a log). To some, it might be a wave of nonsense or a shaggy dog story with no coherent ending. To me and those who grew up on the show, its puzzling structure is chief among its pleasures.

Rating: 4.75 out of 5

Podcast May 26th – Alien: Covenant, Baywatch and Twin Peaks

Cory and Tristan are back in a big way, much like a certain television series that hasn’t been around since they were still innocent children. That’s right, Sunday saw the highly anticipated return of Twin Peaks, David Lynch’s mystery opus that brought to television an entirely new genre of small-town murder fantasies. Lynch literally changed the game, and here he has new episodes finally to either answer the questions left behind in 1992, or just fuck around with our heads for a few more episodes. Either way, it’s a damn fine way to spend some time.

A very bad way to spend some time would be to see the film adaptation of Baywatch, according to Cory. Dive in to our podcast to find out why, like the recent adaptation of CHiPs, this film was a horrible mistake.

Speaking of horrible mistakes, a lot of space-faring journeyman make them along the way to a new colony planet in Alien: Covenant, but you probably already would have guessed that from it…being an Alien movie. The disposable crew this time includes Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride and Billy Crudup. Michael Fassbender, of course, returns as the Lawrence of Arabia-lite android David.

Finally, Tristan brings us one of the many unsung films from late 2016, lost in the glut of Oscar races – Christine – a little film that tells the story of oddball reporter Christine Chubbuck as she navigates changing methods in the news world of Sarasota, Florida.

Grab some cherry pie and coffee, sit down, and listen in below:

Remember, you can always comment responsibly.

Podcast May 19 – Snatched, Marley & Me and 2001: A Space Odyssey

This past weekend was a bit light, as only Cory saw anything new-ish – the Amy Schumer/Goldie Hawn starring Snatched. The film finds the pair attempting to bond on a trip to Colombia.

Meanwhile, Tristan saw two classics, varying in quality – 2008’s doggie tearjerker Marley & Me and Stanley Kubrick’s seminal sci-fi epic 2001.

Tune in below to hear which one the pair thought was better. Never forget, comment responsibly!

Music to Your Ears – Land of Talk, Muse, Selena Gomez

Another week, another One Direction solo artist attempts to cash in on his own singularity. Unfortunately for Liam Payne, he’s no Harry Styles, so we’ll just skip over him to the good stuff.
Muse – Dig Down

After 2015’s Drones, and finally being able to see Muse live, I was convinced of the fact that Muse would never be the same band they once were, grinding away at subdued space rock in stuff like “” and “”. Sure, with the grandiose production of NAME and NAME, Muse transcended the satellites they once gazed upon from down on Earth and vaulted themselves into the arenas they so richly deserved to play. Unfortunately for some original fans of their work, it lent a certain air of disconnection. The production was too overdone in some tracks, and while the lyrics were always snappy, it wasn’t until Drones that they reminded me once again of what great music they could create. It looked like they were beginning to return to that subdued sound. Here, though, they seem to be taking a step in the opposite direction. It’s not horrible, but what do they expect when they allow the chorus to merely be a repetitive yelp bellowing from Matt Bellamy’s throat? The guitar does them no service either, whining and grinding distortion mechanically, like a spaceship working its way through the sky. The overproduction returns, and don’t even get me started on the strangely suggestive title. Strange all around, I have to hope they’ll improve on their next single, and this will merely be a blip on a well done album.
Land of Talk – Life After Youth

What an unexpected surprise it was to find out that Land of Talk, a band I enjoyed in college, was returning with a new album. Back in 2002, their debut album Some Are Lakes set me on a path towards shoegazing pop that found me falling in love with other similar bands like Silversun Pickups, The Head and the Heart, Matt and Kim, Sleigh Bells and Chvrches. To say this is the godfather of them all is understated, at least for my musical journey. Well, with Life After Youth, they’ve returned to form. Singer Elizabeth Powell’s ambient vocals power the fuzz and guides down a river of noise-pop dreams. Much like Grandaddy’s recent return, Land of Talk feels like an old friend that came back for a visit and it feels like no time has passed at all.

Key Tracks: Spiritual Intimidation / This Time / Heartcore

Selena Gomez – Bad Liar

I was ready to dive into what apparently is a frontrunner for ‘song of the summer,’ Crying in the Club by Camila Cabello. Before that, I started with another new single by Selena Gomez, Bad Liar. Now, I had long dismissed Gomez as another manufactured Disney darling, a money machine for the Mouse that would eventually fade away, leaving us with distant memories only of her fling with Justin Bieber. Luckily, that’s not the case, and I’ve been proven very wrong. Bad Liar should have been the hit crowned a full month before summer even starts, as Gomez’s staccato chorus pumps you up and lets you down roughly when you realize the shade dwelling beneath the words. Gomez hasn’t stopped pulling the punches since her equally decadent hit Can’t Keep My Hands to Myself from two years ago. I have to say, Selena may be the real deal, and even though I must be jumping on the train long after it left the station, this may continue her run of star charting singles.


Come back next week for the newest from Shakira, Bleachers and Halsey!

Music to Your Ears – Paramore, Harry Styles and April Showers

As part of the recent hiatus, I was feeling a little burnt out, and I hit a week where there was only one significant album release – Kendrick Lamar’s Damn. I don’t consider myself an expert, only because my listening extends to passing by some stuff on the radio and Childish Gambino. I expect to expand my knowledge, branch out a bit, and I’m starting with this. Truth is, it’s likely one of the best entries into rap I could have. It’s one of the meatiest albums I’ve listened to, period, and I expect this to be cited as one of the best of the year. If nothing else, I can tell it’s good, even if I’m not relating to it.


As for the rest of the April, I have a few words for some releases:

Incubus – 8

Glad to have them back, and Brandon Boyd brings a sorely missed vocal tremble, unsettling in its core and at the same time soothing lyrically. The band is still chugging along after all these years, and while they may not be as crazy as their youth, the maturity lends itself to some more serious fare, and the anger brimming on the surface in years past is still there, just deep down in their experienced souls.

Key Tracks: Glitterbomb / Nimble Bastard / Throw Out the Map

Gorillaz – Humanz

I may be in the minority, but this is a missed opportunity. I think it’s great having guest artists, but it’s simply too dull to even register. At this point, I’d rather have Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett focus on what they bring to the table. This all feels like a cash grab, more like the band got bored and played session behind a bunch of incongruent collaborators. In some ways, I’d rather they’d retired after Plastic Beach.

Key Tracks: Let Me Out, I guess…it’s all rather disappointing.


For this week, a few new instant classics debuted:

Paramore – After Laughter

Isn’t it interesting when a guilty pleasure becomes a beloved treasure? Anyone out there have a band like this? I dismissed Paramore after 2007’s “Misery Business”. I figured that would be a fun piece of my summer, but little did I know how much of an impact the badn would have on my seven years later with their seminal self-titled album. The songs contained within that record became so integral to my life that I still tense up at the memories brought on by certain tracks. So you can understand how hotly anticipated this album was for me, and I’m actually glad that it dropped earlier than I expected, a bit of a surprise this past weekend. Hayley Williams continues to exemplify the awkward balladeer, forcing me to re-examine my own current emotions on life. Listening to several tracks, I shook my head and thought about how much I could relate. If nothing else, Paramore took the mantle of what emo music began to leave behind with bands like Panic! at the Disco and Fall Out Boy. Their brand of self-immolation sparks a certain cynical optimism that belies the cheeriness evoked from every melody. I’m glad to have fallen in love with them after all, it was well worth it.

Key Tracks: Forgiveness / Told You So / Pool / Fake Happy

Harry Styles – Harry Styles

The Twitter world was abuzz with the hot takes on now solo frontman Harry Styles’ debut album, and for good reason. While I’m not sure what he styles (natch) himself as, Harry certainly has the bravado in check, as he lays his heart on the table for us to hear. In a brief story showcase – there are a scant ten tracks here – Styles blossoms is way in the one direction (natch) he could go – up. ‘Sign of the Times’ is a standard breakout single, radio ready and full of lyrics like “we never learn, we been here before”. For someone I didn’t expect much from, given he’s this generation’s version of Justin Timberlake, he’s proving himself more like that success story than others like his fellow bandmate Zayn Malik. (clearly the Chris Kirkpatrick, right?) The good news is that Styles will almosts certainly be able to build a career off of this, albeit slowly, as this album isn’t the be all and end all that Twitter is crowing about. I give him credit for being a rugged songwriter, but if he can harness that voice of his to better prove his point, he’ll take the world by storm

Key Tracks: Two Ghosts / Kiwi / Ever Since New York / Sweet Creature

Miley Cyrus – “Malibu”

Cory’s girl is back with some of the most delightful tones I’ve heard in a while. Gone is her bad girl persona, which is an obviously manufactured move, but who cares? Pop stars these days always have to reinvent themselves, and Cyrus is a master at it. If this is the direction she’s headed in, I’m all for it – she can handle the Katy Perry stadium shows and still feel down to earth, but not end up your prototypical acoustic songstresses like my girl Rachael Yamagata. Miley’s husky contralto does not overwhelm her here, as she discovers a new register to wax poetic on a fluffy memory of a day by the ocean. Let’s hope that the rest of the upcoming album is as demure as this, she’ll be putting her money where her mouth is.


Anyway, glad to be back. We’ll perhaps see some more tunes next week, as old favorite Land of Talk reemerges from the ashes, plus more!

Good Sports – NHL and NBA Update

So, I felt the need to update our readers on the sports world for a few reasons, but most importantly the NHL matchups for the Conference Finals are quite interesting:

Nashville Predators vs. Anaheim Ducks

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This is the first time in franchise history that Nashville has made it to the third round. Will they be the first of the young expansion teams (Minnesota, Columbus and Atlanta/Winnipeg being the others) to make it to a Stanley Cup? My favorite matchup would be Nashville vs. Ottawa for the coolest reason: it would be the first time since Anaheim and Ottawa met up a decade ago that neither team had won before. Rival defenseman PK Subban would love to take on an old rival, and the team would be able to prove that hockey truly belongs in the deep South, a thrill for Commissioner Bettman. This also leads us to a nother fun matchup – Anaheim vs. Ottawa. That would be a re-match that Ottawa would sorely love to take revenge for, and likely would be one of the fastest paced in recent memory. Bobby Ryan would love to prove his old team wrong for letting him go to Canada as well. First, of course, we have to go through the Conference Finals themselves, and I think Anaheim is the clear choice to win – they dominated their division in the regular season and have the higher goal differential. This is all swept by the wayside by the playoffs, of course, and Nashville defiantly had the hot hand by May, sweeping Chicago and ousting St. Louis in six. That means Nashville is an extremely shiny pick, while still maintaining their underdog credibility. My heart goes with Nashville while my gut goes with Anaheim, the team that came back several times to stave off the upstart Oilers. I’m so very excited for this, though. Anaheim in six.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Ottawa Senators

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So I didn’t mention the Penguins at all in the first paragraph, mostly because I’m kind of disappointed that the Washington Capitals didn’t make it. It’s disappointing as a fan of parity, and disappointing to see Alex Ovechkin wait around not hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup. Also, as a Devils and Sharks fan, they were my least favorite team going into the round of sixteen. To be halfway to another consecutive Cup is irksome, to say the least. They may be the most deserving team to be here, though, as they handled the Blue Jackets so well, and hammered home the point that they dominate the Capitals at every turn. So when coming to the unlikely Senators, they may not seem to have their hands full, but it’ll still surely be a fair fight. Craig Anderson kept Ottawa alive, and while the Penguins look like they’re the better team on paper, like Anaheim, they’ll have their work cut out for them. As for those matchups? If they play the Nashville Predators, it’ll be a reunion for some players, the biggest of which is for James Neal, a stellar performer in Steel City in years past that hasn’t kept up his quality this postseason. Will he have an easy time against his former backstopper? How about the Ducks, which makes for the most “intimidating” Stanley Cup Finals ever. I love the thought of asking my friends to go watch the Ducks-Penguins game. So ridiculous, I love it! This is also the first time a Canadian team has been in the final four since Montreal lost to the Rangers in 2014, and could be the first Canadian team in the Finals since Vancouver lost spectacularly to Boston in 2011. Unfortunately for them, I’m thinking it’s Pittsburgh in 5.

So what’s your choice for Finals: Predators-Penguins mid-west blowout? Senators-Ducks re-match? Penguins-Ducks hilarity? Senators-Predators? Comment responsibly!

 

Oh, right. I mentioned the NBA. Well, it’s as boring as ever. San Antonio vs. Golden State, yawn. Boston will likely beat Washington tonight to advance to face off against LeBron and the Cavaliers. Snore. Anyway, as originally predicted, it’s gonna be Cleveland vs. Golden State, unfortunately. Would’ve been more exciting with some parity.

Knowing the right time to talk about movies, music and television