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Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Six Best Albums of (the first eight months of) 2012!

I have this tendency that when I write my year end album reviews, I always miss a few albums that came out earlier in the year because the back half of the year becomes so saturated with awesome music and with major label artists trying to get their albums out before the November cutoff for Grammy consideration.

Especially in September and October, there are a lot of artists I enjoy that are releasing albums. Some are even releasing them on the same day! So what’s a dimension hopper like me to do? Well, keep track, hoard the albums like a dragon’s treasure, and just put in a partial year assessment for the albums that have already come out and what I’ve already enjoyed.

With that in mind, here are my top six albums of 2012 so far!

6.) My Head Is An Animal by Of Monsters and Men – I really didn’t want to bother with this album. I heard ‘Little Talks’ constantly on Dave.FM (preferred radio station when I’m stuck in modern day Atlanta!) and I enjoyed it greatly, but I wasn’t sure if the rest of the album would be as enjoyable. Such is the case with many indie bands that seem to only have hipster credibility. Well, when I saw the album on discount on Amazon, I decided to give it a shot. Well, I was pleasantly surprised! My Head Is An Animal is an extremely well done folk rock album that gives a little Icelandic twist to the genre that’s been on the rise since Mumford and Sons became popular. The use of horns and atmosphere give Of Monsters and Men a particularly refreshing sound and make My Head Is An Animal one of my biggest surprises of 2012.

Suggested Tracks: ‘Little Talks’, ‘King And Lionheart’

5.) Hey Hey Cabaret by Frenchy and the Punk – I love my friends Scott Helland and Samantha Stephenson, and I love the first of two albums that they’ve created for this year’s release. Hey Hey Cabaret is a continuation of their previous album Happy Madness. Filled with boundless energy and a lot of cheekiness, the New York duo solidify their cabaret sound with eleven tracks filled with happiness. Magic and steampunk can-do-ness sums up this album fairly well and shows why Frenchy and the Punk are so good at what they do.

Suggested Tracks: ‘Confession of Jack Bonnie and Sally Clyde’, ‘Birthday Fanfare’

4.) Leaving Eden by The Carolina Chocolate Drops – I already waxed poetic about the Drops when Songs from District 12 and Beyond came out, but Leaving Eden just confirmed my love for them. Equal parts continuing folk music tradition and the band expanding their own songwriting skills, Leaving Eden is an excellent album in the band’s lineup. The Drops are the best at what they do, and Leaving Eden is just as worthy of attention the way the Grammy-winning Genuine Negro Jig was. Plus, they’ve been getting a good chunk of attention with the ‘Country Girl’ video playing on CMT. It just makes me sad that their cover of ‘You Be Illin” is only on the deluxe edition.

Suggested Tracks: ‘Ruby, Are You Mad At Your Man?’, ‘Country Girl’

3.) Not Your Kind of People by Garbage – When I heard that Garbage was releasing their first album since 2005’s Bleed Like Me, I nearly cried. Shirley Manson has been my idol for a long time and I never thought I’d see the day when Garbage would release a new album. I eagerly anticipated it for months and it did not disappoint! Falling somewhere between Version 2.0 and beautifulgarbageNot Your Kind of People brings Garbage’s dark electrorock full steam into the digital age. First single ‘Blood For Poppies’ is extremely catchy in a way that brings back memories of ‘I Think I’m Paranoid’, Shirley’s vocals have never been so darkly sweet the way they are on ‘Control’ and ‘I Hate Love’, and ‘Automatic Systematic Habit’ carries on the tradition of Garbage’s amazing album openers that knock the doors down. Great album, and a great band that I’m sad I will be missing at Music Midtown.

Suggested Tracks: ‘Blood for Poppies’, ‘Control’

2.) Garage Hymns by Empires – This was already going to be on my list, but then I saw Empires live for the first time ever. Something about Sean Van Vleet nearly knocking me over from the stage as he sings ‘Hard Times’ just sort of seals my love for Garage Hymns. With a sound that could raise Hell, Empires continues and refines the precedent set with their debut album Howl and EP Bang. The songs have something of a hardrocking, supernatural quality to them and definitely prove why the band got as far as they did in the Rolling Stone contest. It’s onward and upward for Empires and Garage Hymns gives the other bands in Empires’ circle a quality to strive for.

Suggested Tracks: ‘Hell’s Heroes’, ‘Hard Times’

1.) O’ Be Joyful by Shovels and Rope – I already went on about this album for Steampunk Chronicle. It’s good though, and shows why Shovels and Rope are better with two than most bands with four or more. Hence why this high energy album is my number one… so far.

Suggested Tracks: ‘Kemba’s Got The Cabbage Moth Blues’, ‘Hail Hail’

By the end of this year, this list will surely be updated, but here’s what I’m enjoying so far!

I’m hoping to update more this week as I continue my job hunt, but Dragon*Con prep takes a long time and is very stressful! Still, if any one following this blog is going to Dragon*Con, please let me know and I do hope to see you there! I will post more information on my wherabouts closer to the convention starting.

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Posted by on August 19, 2012 in Music

 

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Moonrise, Vampires, Dark Knights, and the Neighborhood Watch: Quick reviews of the last four movies I watched.

Okay, I don’t know how I let myself go so long again between updates. It’s either Dragon*Con insanity, or just pure laziness on my part. Either way, there are four movies I haven’t reviewed yet that I’m going to knock out right now, or I’m going to let myself fall behind even more. Starting with the first one I promised:

Moonrise Kingdom

I’m just now starting to become familiar with Wes Anderson. When most people’s first exposure to Anderson was Rushmore or The Royal Tenenbaums, mine was The Fantastic Mr. Fox. I didn’t expect to like The Fantastic Mr. Fox as much as I did, but the slowed down frame rate and the quirky, somewhat adult spin on a children’s story was a treat in terms of stop motion animation. Plus, Petey’s Song had to be the best part of the movie.

I guess it’s appropriate that the followup to Anderson’s adaptation of a Roald Dahl novel is a story about childhood and first love. Moonrise Kingdom has all the elements of a live action Wes Anderson movie. There are the delightfully insane characters, the adults who aren’t quite satisfied with their lives, the bright primary colors that don’t seem to exist in real life, and the masterful use of music. However, it doesn’t feel as hilariously bleak as a usual Wes Anderson movie. Instead, there’s a bit of hope and optimism to be had between our protagonists Sam and Suzy. They’re young, misunderstood, and in love. And no adult is going to keep them apart. I kept expecting a terrible turn around for the two due to Suzy’s more pessimistic nature or the adults who seemed determined that they had to be apart, but was pleasantly surprised and relieved when it didn’t turn out that way.

Through the story of Sam and Suzy, we get to see the usual Anderson adults, but they’re not the focus of the story. In fact, some of them even have improved lives by the end of the film after the events of chasing the two runaway lovers across New Penzance. There are a few Anderson newcomers among them, such as Bruce Willis and Edward Norton, but there are also some great memorable performances from Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzmann, who probably only have about 30 minutes of film between them. A lot of credit has to be given to the child actors though. Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward made me fall in love with Sam and Suzy so much with their performances and all the Khaki Scout boys managed to be hilarious as well.

This movie was a fun and hilarious watch, and a great addition to the world of Wes Anderson. I hope he continues to make these children’s movies for adults, because he seems to be rather good at it.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

This movie is not a good movie, but it’s damn entertaining.

There are many goofy moments, some very terrible racial connotations with the vampires using slaves as a food source, and horrible CG, but if you can turn off your critical eye for a couple of hours and turn on your inner Crow T. Robot, this movie is a fun piece of Alternate History. An Abraham Lincoln that acts like Liam Neeson with an axe that doubles as a shotgun, Rufus Sewell as a deliciously decadent baddie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead defying her aging makeup as Mary Todd Lincoln, Dominic Cooper being a hot vampire teacher, and Anthony Mackie bringing out his inner Samuel L. Jackson? Again, they make this slow motion trainwreck of hilarious badness amazing.

Also Alan Tudyk and one of the McPoyle brothers are there. Enough said.

The Dark Knight Rises

I wanted to like this movie so much more than I actually did.

I mean, it’s not bad. It’s not like it was a Schumacher movie, but compared to the chaotic exhilaration of The Dark Knight and the endless fun of The AvengersThe Dark Knight Rises was just… eh.

There were several good elements, like Anne Hathaway’s performance as Selina Kyle and Joseph Gordon Levitt as John Blake, Cillian Murphy’s cameo as the Scarecrow that brought back memories of Batman: The Animated Series, and Michael Caine making me cry with his emotional performance as Alfred Pennyworth, but as a whole, there seemed to be so much missing. Catwoman’s arc wasn’t developed enough, Bruce suddenly going broke was sort of trite, the twist about Talia and Bane really shouldn’t have been a twist and/or developed from the first or second film, and Tom Hardy’s voice as Bane was purely laughable. Among other things about his whole plot to destroy Gotham.

Or was it Talia’s?

Either way, there was so much of this film that didn’t seem to go together. It didn’t really feel like a Batman film either. For how much Bruce was absent throughout this film and how much focus their was on the police and the antagonists, it felt like it was actually Christopher Nolan trying to adapt Greg Rucka’s Gotham Central but added in Batman being a recluse ala Frank Miller and trying to get rid of a bomb ala Adam West just to appease Warner Bros. Well, if that was the case, where was Renee Montoya? Because she was the B:TAS character I wanted, not Daggett. Though, any time Burn Gorman as Daggett’s assistant got beat up by Selina, I felt satisfied due to my hatred of Owen Harper.

The biggest crime of this film though? They killed Batmanuel. That is completely and utterly unacceptable.

The Watch

Finally, I saw The Watch, Akiva Schaffer’s second film as a director. If this film had been presented to me with its plot and only with Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill, I probably would have waited to see it on DVD or HBO.

However, I was presented with an irresistible fourth lead: Richard Ayoade, making his American film debut.

With that, I was pretty much required to see this movie.

The Watch isn’t the best comedy ever. In fact, it’s not even as hilariously ridiculous as Hot Rod, Schaffer’s directorial debut. However, Ayoade brought an amazing performance as Jamarcus. The character was slightly like Moss from The IT Crowd, but there was enough cursing, confusion, and enjoyment of sex to set the character apart from Moss. Plus, there were some legitimately hilarious and heartfelt moments in the film. I was actually pretty surprised with the way the story of Bob (Vince Vaughn) and his daughter Chelsea turned out. I expected it to be the two of them arguing throughout the film, but it turned out to be quite realistic and sweet the way their relationship turned around. Ben Stiller’s character also had a interestingly realistic story arc with him and his wife trying to conceive. It was surprising, but refreshing as well.

The film also features great cameos from R. Lee Ermey, Billy Crudup, and The Lonely Island. In fact, The Lonely Island’s cameo seems to harken back to their 100th digital short on SNL.

I’m all caught up now. Next topic will be my late halfway through the year music coverage.

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2012 in Film

 

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