My Top 13 Albums of 2016

35895015-wallpaper-music

We have finally come to the end of this godforsaken year. And with that, everyone makes their ends of the year lists. And I am not too different in that sense. Primarily speaking I talk about movies on this blog, but since I haven’t seen that many 2016 releases, you will not see any “Top ___ Movies of 2016” from me any time soon. But I could at least make this type of list since it’s easy to listen to music thanks to free (and legal) services like Spotify and Youtube. With that said, let’s go over some of the ground rules here.

Rule #1: This is my list, featuring MY opinions. It’s not my list, featuring YOUR opinions. So don’t bitch and moan over what is featured on this list. I encourage friendly discussion, but bitching and moaning… get that shit out of here.

Rule #2: No “This artist’s greatest hits” albums will be featured. Would be a bit of a cheat to feature that since it would only be made up of older songs by the artist. Only new stuff.

Rule #3: I am not including any soundtracks or original scores here. Otherwise this list would be impossible to limit to a reasonable amount.

Rule #4: No live concert albums will be featured here. I kind of basse this on the same reason as rule #2, since it’s never made of only original material. That said, I am giving an honorable mention to Joe Bonamassa’s “Live at the Greek Theatre” album, because it’s pretty great.

Now that we’ve laid the foundation for this thing, let’s get started! Ladies and gentlemen, these are my Top 13 Albums of 2016!

Number 13: David Bowie – Blackstar (Sample: Lazarus)

Kicking off the list is the final album by legendary entertainer David Bowie who unfortunately passed away very early this year. Bowie of course is known for making a ton of great music throughout the years, as well as wearing some very interesting styles of clothing/makeup. Safe to say, he is missed. And hwile I don’t think this is one his best albums, it is still good (it’s on this list for a reason). Bowie did some very experimental stuff with this album, and while I am not the biggest fan of it all, I at least appreciate that he tried something so different and interesting with it. But I do have to say, the track featured in this post, “Lazarus”, is absolutely fantastic and one of the best songs of the year.

Number 12: Sabaton – The Last Stand (Sample: The Last Stand)

Here we have the latest album by Swedish metal band Sabaton. Several of their albums tend to have some interesting themes explored, which tends to make for some pretty epic metal songs. The theme of this album is “famous last stand battles”, hence the album title. If you’re not a history buff, you might not know which battle each songs is about, so I recommend reading up on the album on wikipedia. But I am a big fan of Sabaton, and this album is pretty badass.

Number 11: Doug Seegers – Walking on the Edge of the World (Sample: Walking on the Edge of the World)

Mixing it up at number 11 with some country. To be specific, it is American country musician Doug Seegers, who not too long ago was just a street musician. Then Swedish musician Jill Johnson found out about him and made him famous. And now he’s a pretty big artist. And like his first album, “Going Down to the River”, this album is really good… not much else to say.

Number 10: Leonard Cohen – You Want it Darker (Sample: You Want it Darker)

Here we have the final album by legendary singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen, who died not too long after this album was released. Not to reopen wounds, but 2016  was a really awful year to be a fan of great entertainers. Oh well… c’est la vie. But as I said, this was the final album recorded by Cohen, and it kind of shows. It’s dark, contemplative, interesting, haunting… it’s a really great album and a perfect way for his career to wrap up.

Number 9: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree (Sample: Skeleton Tree)

Wow, 2016 was filled with interesting and haunting music. This is the latest album from teh critically acclaimed Australian band, and it’s definitely another solid album from them. It’s interesting to kind of read up on the album and find out some of the behind the scenes stuff. Mainly speaking, how the album was pretty close to finished when Nick Cave’s 15-year-old son died, which as you might expect, halted production. And this of course changed a few things in the album. Not exactly sure what, or how much… but some things got added. If you listen to it and look at the lyrics, the theme of death and tragedy is explored, which might have been triggered a little bit by the unfortunate passing of Cave’s son. His son is never explicitly mentioned, but it might’ve had some effect on it. Either way, this is a great album.

Number 8: Eric Clapton – I Still Do (Sample: Alabama Woman Blues)

So for the number 8 spot we have the latest album from Eric Clapton, one of my personal favorite musicians/songwriters. Clapton has always had one foot firmly in the blues genre, and this album clearly shows it. And yeah, it’s another win from Clapton. I wouldn’t say that it’s as great as “Slowhand” (his best album), but it’s still pretty damn good.

Number 7: Rick Astley – 50 (Sample: Angels On My Side)

You think I’m joking? I swear, this is serious. The man who for a while was one of the biggest internet memes, released a genuinely great album. I am not necessarily the biggest fan of pop music… but this shit is great. Astley’s vocals sound fantastic, even better than they did 30 years ago, and everything is overall very well composed. Really, it’s a great album.

Number 6: Shawn James – On the Shoulders of Giants (Sample: Hellhound)

To tell you the truth, I discovered Shawn James very recently. First time I ever heard one of his songs was through the “Last of Us Part II” trailer, which was released at the beginning of this this month. So I of course looked up the song used in the trailer and then began listening to more of what Shawn James had to offer and by god, he is awesome! His raw, smoky voice is great, and combined with some great instrumentals makes for some awesome music. And really, his 2016 album (which is the topic of this thing) is another win from him.

Number 5: Skillet – Unleashed (Sample: Feel Invincible)

I am not a very religious person. I’ve been baptized, I’ve gone through confirmation… but I am not particularly religious in general (my foul language should be a very clear clue). But I also go by the philosophy that you don’t have to be very relgious to appreciate good music that has a religious subtext. As long as the music sounds good and is well composed… then who gives a shit if it’s based in relgion. And that’s basically my way of justifying why I love Skillet, an American Christian rock band. I have been a fan of these guys for years now, and I was of course incredibly hyped about their new album “Unleashed” being released. And when it came out, I thought it was great. Not their best album, but it was still pretty great (Again, it’s on this list for a reason).

Number 4: Santana – Santana IV (Sample: Forgiveness)

I’ve been a fan of latino rock band Santana for quite some time, so seeing that they came out with a new album this year of course got me incredibly happy. Like with previous albums, it’s filled with some cool beats, some nice vibes, and Carlos Santana’s god damn guitar playing. Seriously, that man knows how to play a guitar like a boss. Really, his guitar playing is the main reason why I love the band. Yes, there are other great things too, but that guitar, man… it’s so amazing!

Number 3: Airbourne – Breakin’ Outta Hell (Sample: Breakin Outta Hell)

Sometimes you don’t need a deeper meaning or experimental instrumentals to make good music. Sometimes all you need is some passion and a guitar. And by that I mean, Airbourne is just a straight-up hard rock band that don’t seem to give two shits about what anyone thinks. They just play the music they love… hard rock (clearly inspired by AC/DC and a little bit of Judas Priest). And that’s what I love about these guys. They have over the past few years become one of my favorite bands of all time, and when their new album was announced… boy, was I hyped. And then it came out aaaaand it was fucking awesome!

Number 2: Joe Bonamassa – Blues of Desperation (Sample: Mountain Climbing)

And at the number 2 spot we find the latest (non-live) album from American blues musician Joe Bonamassa, who I didn’t know about until some time in fall of last year. And now he is one of my favorite artists of all time. And this new album by him is pretty damn great. From some of the slower ballads like “Drive”, to the fast stuff like “You left Me Nothin’ But the Bill and the Blues”, to the heavy and badass “Mountain Climbing”… all of it is so amazingly good! Or at least that’s what I think.

NUMBER 1: Metallica – Hardwired… To Self-Destruct (Sample: Hardwired)

If you were surprised by this, then you clearly don’t follow me on twitter (@TheMarckoguy) or you’re just very new here. I have talked about Metallica a whole bunch of times (at least… 5) on this blog, and I have tweeted about the band a few too many times before (I am not sorry). They are my second favorite band of all time (Number 1 is AC/DC), so I might have some slight bias with this placement. But that’s okay, because it’s my list and I can do whatever the hell I want to. But I have listened to this album a lot of times to try to get the feel of it and I came to the conclusion that I absolutely love it. It’s a great return to form for the band, and a real treat for long time fans of the band. It also feels great to have another Metallica album out, since the last one before this came out in 2008. So yeah… this is my favorite album of 2016.

What are your thoughts? What’s your favorite album of 2016? Leave any and all thoughts in the comments!
Have a good one and happy new year!

 

Advertisements

Movie Review: The Revenant (2015)

the-revenant-poster-movie-leonardo-dicaprio-wallpapersbyte-com-1366x768

Survival, something we all strive for in our own ways. Doesn’t matter at what level, all humans aim to survive in one way or another. Doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in your kitchen, having a cup of tea or if you’re lost in the woods… you are trying to survive.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Revenant”.

Frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) hasn’t had the best of times. First he got mauled by an angry bear, and then he got left for dead by his hunting team. So now Glass sets out on a long and difficult journey to survive and possibly get revenge. And before you ask, no this isn’t a fast-paced revenge action movie like “Kill Bill”. This is more of a slow and methodical tale about Glass just trying to stay alive while finding the asshole that wronged him. And I have to say that I thought it was a great plot. I don’t want to say that I enjoyed it, because there’s some really disturbing stuff going on at times and it’s a pretty harrowing tale, so enjoyment is not the word I’d use for the plot. It was a ver yinteresting plot that I was invested in from start to finish.

The characters in this movie were all realistic and very interesting. Leonardo DiCaprio… holy fuck, that dude can act. He doesn’t say a whole lot, and when he does it isn’t always in English. But I always believed his performance, it was absolutely fantastic. Tom Hardy was also great in the movie, even though he feel back on the typical “Tom Hardy mumble” quite a bit. But his performance overall was great. Domhnall Gleeson, also turning out a truly great performance in the movie. And Will Poulter was really good too, he really surprised me in this movie. I mean, there wasn’t ever a performance I’d call bad or even mediocre in this movie… all were somewhere between good and fan-fucking-tastic.

The score for the movie was composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto, and Bryce Dessner. And it was nothing short of great. There were tracks that were really exciting and there were tracks that were really haunting and eerie. Really, the score was very well composed and perfectly fit the movie.

This movie was directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, the man who also directed “Birdman”. And once again he did something very unique when directing this movie. Though instead of making the entire movie look like one continuous shot he opted to shoot the entire movie in natural light. Which means that he actually went out into the fucking wilderness and shot with all natural light sources, like the sun or some fire. No studio lights or green screen here, it’s the real deal. Sure, there was some CG in the movie, but only for some of the more impossible stuff… like Leonardo DiCaprio getting mauled by a god damn bear, that was of course a man in a funny suit getting some CGI edited on top of him so he could become a bear. There were apparently a bunch more bits of CG in the movie, but it was blended so well with the practical that I couldn’t tell which was which. Shit, here I’ve spent a bunch of words talking about visual effects that I forgot to talk about the directing/cinematography. But yeah, that stuff is holy fucking shit levels of amazing. The scenes are very well crafted and the cinematography is some of the best that I’ve ever seen. It is a visually stunning movie. Let’s talk about the action scenes in the movie. There are not too many, but when they happen they are incredibly brutal and disturbing. I don’t have a problem with violence in movies, but the stuff here is done in such a brutal and realistic way that it got some reactions out of me. So if you haven’t seen this movie and you’re squeamish… consider this a warning.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 82% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 76/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,0/10. The movie also won 3 Oscars in the categories of Best Actor (DiCaprio, finally), Best Director, and Best Cinematography. The movie was also nominated for an additional 9 Oscars in the categories of Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Hardy), Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup, Best Sounds Mixing, Best Sound Editing, Best Visual Effects, and Best Production Design. 

“The Revenant” is an incredibly impressive film. It has a great plot, great characters, terrific performances, great music, fantastic directing, gorgeous cinematography, and great visual effects. Time for my final score. *Grunting noise*. My final score for “The Revenant” is a 9,89/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.
seal-of-approval

My review of “The Revenant” is now completed.

Damn nature, you scary!

Movie Review: The Shallows (2016)

shallows2

Shark movies! Just… shark movies! Fucking shark movies! Love ’em, hate ’em… shark movies!

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Shallows”!

Nancy (Blake Lively) has traveled to a secluded beach to gt away from some shit. But her little vacation kind of goes to shit when she is attacked by a huge god damn shark and gets stranded on a rock about 200 yards from shore. So now she’s trying to survive while the shark is swimming around in the waters around her. And now we have a confined thriller with a shark… that is a pretty great premise. And it is for the most part a tense and very entertaining plot. I say “for the most part” because the first twenty(ish) minutes drag a little bit. I came here for a shark thriller, not an MTV music video. But after those opening minutes have passed and the shark has attacked, the movie truly starts adn I thougth that stuff was really good. Not Oscar worthy, but definitely entertaining and tense.

So there isn’t really much to say regarding characters here, considering how little time they get throughout. Really, the only one we can talk about is Nancy… so let’s do that. I thought Blake Lively did a really good job in the role, she really carried the movie very well. What I also liked about the character is that she wasn’t a “Mary Sue”, but she was also not your typical damsel in distress. The stuff she did throughout this tough situation, it all felt pretty realistic (given that the situation is exaggerated for the sake of our entertainment). And I kind of lied when I said that Blake Lively was the only character worth talking about. On the rock that Black Lively is stuck on, there is a seagull keeping her company, and I honestly think it’s the best character in the movie… just had to get that out there.

The score for the movie was composed by Marco Beltrami and I thought it was really good. Beltrami tends to compose scores that I like, and this is no different. It can at times help elevate tension and it’s overall very well composed. There are also some modern, licensed tracks in the soundtrack, none of them really my cup of tea. Good thing that they’re all pretty much in the beginning during the “MTV Music Video” bit. It didn’t ruin anything for me, but I had to mention it.

This movie was directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, a man whom I am a fan of. And I think he did a really good job here. The shots look terrific for the most part, and the scenes when Blake Lively is on and around the rock are all tensely directed. Not “Jaws” levels tension, but there’s still a good amount of tension throughout. And the shark is very well realized. The CG looks really good… for the most part. There are a few parts where I looked at the shark and said to myself “Wow, that looks kind of bad”. But those moments are like when we get a really close and lengthy look at the shark. But the moments when the camera was in the air and we saw the shark cruising around under the water… that stuff looked great, gave us a real sense of scale.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 77% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 59/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,4/10.

“The Shallows” is a really entertaining shark movie. It has a good plot, two good characters, a really good performance from Blake Lively, really good music, and great directing. However it is slightly brought down by those first 20(ish) minutes and a few bad CG shots. Time for my final score. *Duuuuun dun*. My final score for “The Shallows” is an 8,89/10. So I’d say that it’s worth buying!
worth-buying

My review of “The Shallows” is now completed.

Seriously, I loved that seagull.

We now have a trailer for “Alien: Covenant”!

Hello there guys, and merry christmas! Also, happy holidays for those of you who may not celebrate christmas! Anyway, uhm… trailer!

So we have finally gotten a trailer for “Alien: Covenant”, the sequel to 2012’s “Prometheus”. So what is this all about? Well… Crew flies in space, crew lands on planet, crew finds alien life forms, chaos ensues. It’s basically the first “Alien”, only on a slightly different planet and with some other characters. But you know what, I don’t mind. It looks like it will be a thrilling science fiction-horror movie. I am also happy to see the classic Xenomorph egg, with a chestburster flying out of it. Also, there’s a Xenomorph at the end of this trailer and it makes me happy. And finally, Jebuz fucking Crust, this movie looks like it will bring back the gory stuff from the first two “Alien” movies. It really seems like they are going full on Rated R with this thing… which I love! And for those wondering, I have seen “Prometheus” and I thought it was a good movie. Yeah, it’s safe to say that I am excited about this movie. “Alien: Covenant” is set to be released in May of 2017.

What are your thoughts on this? Are you looking forward to “Alien: Covenant”? And what did you think about “Prometheus”? Leave any and all thoughts in the comments!
Enjoy!

12 Songs of Christmas 2016 (Final Part)

At long last we are here, the final part in my little series of christmas silliness. I’ve had fun sharing some christmas songs with you guys. Not sure if you’ve had as much fun, but hey, if you hated this series then you can be happy that this is the final part… at least for this year. So withour further ado, let’s get into it.

So I was originally gonna use “From Us To You” by Jeff Dunham, but I couldn’t really find it on youtube, so I had to scrap that idea. So instead we are going with another classic that most people love unless they feel like it’s been played too much and they’ve then grown to abhor it. Anyway, the last song for this little series of posts will be José Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad”, which of course is Spanish for Merry Christmas. Even though I’ve probably heard this song over a hundred times, I still really like it. It’s happy, energetic, and timeless. It is a fantastic song for the holidays, and a fantastic song to wrap this series up with.
Merry fucking christmas, and enjoy!

12 Songs of Christmas 2016 (Part 11)

Holy shit, you guys. We are already at the penultimate part in my little christmas series thingy. Wow, time’s sure gone fast. Well, better not dweel on introductory bullshit… let’s do this!

So the song I chose for today kind of works as a lead-up to christmas. It is “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” as performed by Michael Bolton. And I mean, what better song to put on the penultimate entry for this since it says “Santa Claus Is COMING to Town”. It tells that he will be here soon. And yeah, there’s no need to elaborate on that. I just wanna say that this is a really great version of this song and… no that’s it.
Enjoy!

12 Songs of Christmas 2016 (Part 10)

It’s so fucking close to christmas now, it’s crazy. With that said, let’s talk about yet another christmas song.

So the song that I have picked for today can be considered a classic. The song in question is Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas”. The song is basically about Elvis feeling sad if he can’t celebrate christmas with someone he loves/cares about/has a crush on. It’s right in the opening lyrics “Blue christmas, without you”. And yeah, this is a really good song. I’ve always been a fan of Elvis, so I never really had any doubts about putting his music in a post of mine. And it’s perfect then that he recorded a christmas song that I could put in this silly little series of mine.
Enjoy!

12 Songs of Christmas 2016 (Part 9)

Hello there, ladies and gents. It’s very close to christmas now. But before that, let’s talk about some music!

So the song I have picked out today it “Buon Natale” by Italian comedian/actor/singer Enzo Iachetti. Backstory, I first heard this song during class once. Why did I hear this song then? I was studying Italian with a teacher who originated from Italy… duh. There backstory done! Now, the reason I picked this song was because 1. Backstory. 2. I think it’s a pretty damn good song that I wanted to share with you guys during this stupid thing of mine. Basically the song is about how someone wishes all the people of the world a merry christmas. I mean, the title itself, “Buon Natale” is Italian for merry christmas. Yeah.
Enjoy!

Movie Review: Warcraft (2016)

1464365187warcraft_movie-wide

Before we begin the review itself I just want to say  that I am no fan of the video games that this is based on. So any fanservice in this movie would kind of fly past me and wouldn’t change my judgment of anything. Just wanted to get it out of the way. Now, let’s do this shit.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Warcraft”.

Orcs have gone through a magic portal into the world of Azeroth, because their own world went to shit. The leader of the orcs, Gul’dan (Daniel Wu), will do anything to take over Azeroth. However, one of the other high(ish) ranking orcs named Durotan (Toby Kebbell) thinks that Gul’dan’s ways are wrong, and sort of sides with the humans to try to stop Gul’dan and his evil ways. Now this is some really interesting stuff. The basic idea is really interesting, as it presents both the human side and the orc side of things here. It’s not like “Human good, orc bad”, it’s a lot more grey than that, which is something I really liked about it. However, to be completely honest, the plot isn’t perfect. My main problem here is really the same as my main issue with the first “Harry Potter” movie. It sets up this world, a lot of the mythology existing in it, and the factions/characters, which kind of ruins the pacing a bit. The plot that we get presented is good, but the pacing is not.

The characters here are… okay. I never felt like I truly cared about any of them, except for maybe one of them. And that one was Durotan, the orc we follow for a good amount of the movie. His motivations were good and I did care about him. And Toby Kebbell, with the motion capture and voice acting was great in the role. Travis Fimmel played the main human character, Anduin Lothar, and I think he did a pretty good job. Paula Patton played a half human/half orc character named Garona, and she was good in her role. Ben Schnetzer played a young mage in the movie and he was okay. I felt like he was in the movie a bit too much, not because of his performance, but because there was just something about his character. We also got supporting performances from people like Ben Foster, Rob Kazinsky, Clancy Brown, Dominic Cooper, and Ruth Negga, all of whom did a pretty good job.

The music was composed by Ramin Djawadi and it was pretty damn badass. It was this big and epic orchestral score that worked really well in the movie, elevating a good amount of scenes, making some of them more (in lack of a better word) epic.

This movie was directed by Duncan Jones, a man who not only made two sci-fi movies I love, but who’s also apparently a big fan of the games. So with that knowledge I had hopes that it would be a well directed movie… and I was right. It’s a very well directed movie, the shots look great. Speaking of things looking great, let’s talk about the visual effects. Jesus fucking Christ, the effects here look great. The orcs look very realistic, and they blend very well with the human characters. Which brings me to the action scenes, all being really fun, exciting, and badass. And my guess is that they wouldn’t really have been as good if a different director would have taken it on.

This movie has not been the most well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 28% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 32/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,0/10.

“Warcraft” is far from a perfect movie, but it’s definitely one of the better video game movies out there. I can see the potential in a film franchise here. It has a good plot, okay characters, pretty good performances, really good music, great directing/action, and great visual effects. However it is bogged down a bit by poor pacing and the fact that I didn’t care too much about msot of the characters. Time for my final score. *rwlrwlrwlrwl*. My final score for “Warcraft” is an 8,55/10. So I’d say that it is worth buying.
Worth buying

My review of “Warcraft” is now completed.

Weird to see both Jesse (Dominic Cooper) and Tulip (Ruth Negga) from “Preacher” in this movie…

12 Songs of Christmas 2016 (Part 8)

Hello there, ladies and gents! I hope you’re all doing well. It’s now time for part 8 in this little christmas thingamajig.

So this time we go with something a bit different. To be more specific, it is a rap song. And with that said, you probably already figured out that the song of for today is “Christmas In Hollis” by Run-DMC, which of course can be heard in the christmas classic “Die Hard”. I am not the biggest fan of rap, as you might’ve guessed with all the rock music shared on this blog time and time again.  But I also don’t dislike rap, there are some artists/groups that I do like, and of course individual tracks by various artists. Run-DMC is one of the groups that I genuinely like… mainly thanks to their collaboration with Aerosmith, but whatever. But yeah, they made a christmas song and it turned out to be really good. Not much else to say there, unless you guys feel like adding stuff in the comments.
Enjoy!